Pique the Geek 20090719. Drugs of Abuse. LSD: The Evangelicals

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

LSD is essentially unique in that there were a group of people who actively advocated its universal use.  There are several reasons for that in my knowledge, and probably others of which I am oblivious.

There were several folks who were instrumental in promoting LSD as a panacea for the troubles of the planet, or that it would make other positive changes.  In at least a couple of cases, their interaction just caused the authorities to react more harshly to the wide use of the drug.  We will explore some of them this evening.

First, some housekeeping.  I STILL have not bought cigarettes since March of this year.  Alas, I have yet to control the number of hand rolled Prince Albert cigarettes that I continue to smoke.  Perhaps recent emotional turmoil has something to do with that.

Second, I apologize for my emotional outburst here night before last.  I appreciate the outpouring of support, but I assure you that nothing like that will occur again.

Now, down to business.  There were several evangelists for LSD.  The most well known one was Timothy Leary.  He, oddly, probably did more to make that substance illegal than anyone else, and with the best of intentions.  The next most well known one was Ken Kesey, the popular author of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which in many respects was sort of an autobiography of his experiences as first a janitor, then a drugs test subject, in a clinical trial almost certainly part of Project MKUltra run by CIA.  

Connected with Ken Kesey were the Grateful Dead, the penultimate “acid band”.  Interestingly, they were also excellent musicians, not just tripping random note folks.  I appreciate their music, and ask for comments about their specific contributions insofar as being part of the “Evangelical” LSD movement.

Another band in the center of it was the Jefferson Airplane.  This one, like the Moody Blues, got greater fame after a personnel shakeup.  To imagine the Airplane with Grace Slick is almost impossible, but the first lineup did not include her.  More about her in a sort of a footnote to his post.

By the way, everything in this installment is from my memory, except for photographs and music tracks.  I have written the entire text before I explored for those, and, except for corrections that I have noted, come from nowhere but me.

Of course, the Moody Blues continue (I use the noun “band” as a plural, shoot me, my granddad and grandmum were from Birkenhead, just south of Liverpool) to be, in my estimate, the most profound and longest lived band that were LSD enthusiasts, although Pink Floyd was also an important one.  Like I said last time, I do not want to get into a “what band was better” contest.  However, comments are welcome to advocate your favorites and the reasons therefore.

There are two Evangelicals who are rarely noted (I am leaving out Dr. Hofmann, because I covered him last time).  One was the genius, thinker, writer, and philosopher Aldous Huxley.  He was not so much as an Evangelical as a serious student, but his writings have been important.  The other is Alfred Matthew Hubbard, who predates almost everyone except for Hofmann and Huxley.  Let us explore those folks.

I guess that I should go in chronological order of birth to bring some order into this essay.  That would make Aldous Huxley the first.  Born in 1894 (18940726), he would have been 105 years old this month.  He died on 19631122, at the age of almost 60.  He was essentially the last in the line of a brilliant family of British persons of letters, and that line is sadly missed, at least on my part.  He is best remembered for his work Brave New World, about what the future might bring.  It is as seminal now as it was then, if you can get over the very formal British grammar and syntax.  One of my goals in this series is to make formal English understandable.  All of you know that I use neither contractions nor slang in my essays (I relax those restrictions a bit in the comments) because I think that it is extremely important for people to understand and utilize very strict English in formal settings.  However, that is just my personal preference.

In any event, Huxley was unique.  He got lucky in that he had a vision problem during World War I, so he was not called to serve.  He recovered from it somewhat, but never did have very good vision.  That was fortuitous for him, since he would probably have be imprisoned for being a pacifist.  In his later years he relocated to the United States (he never became a citizen because of his pacifist views) and finally died, knowing that he was dying, under the influence of a pretty heavy dose of LSD.  As an afterthought, Jim Morrison of the Doors used part of one of Huxley’s works (The Doors of Perception) as the signature name of the band.  I am still not sure if I think that the Doors were good or not.  Some of their material was certainly Top 40, but so was material from the Cowsills.

Aldous Huxley was certainly a brilliant intellect.  One of his wives stated later that he would be working on his writing and that the telephone would ring.  Aldous would get up, with pen in hand, still writing, take a message on another pad, continue writing, then make warm statements to the caller, continue writing his work, and leave a perfect message for Mrs. Huxley for her to return the call.  He kept writing his own works during the entire episode, and had no recollection of the telephone call afterward.  I am not comparing my feeble intellect with his, but I often jot things down and never remember them later, until I find the notes.  He was the last in a great line of thinkers.  Here is a short documentary about him, including a fairly long interview with his second wife, who gave him the LSD whilst he was dying.

Now, this next guy is interesting.  Alfred Matthew Hubbard was born in 1901 (two years before my grandmum) and lived to be 81 years old.  He died in 1982 (19820831).  He was the first LSD evangelical, and apparently was pretty effective.  He also was a pilot, so he could go essentially anywhere.  There is not a lot documented about him, but it is likely that he exposed several thousand people to LSD, thought to be the Sandoz material, since in the late 1950s that was about the sole source.  Rumor has it that he gave it to scientists, government officials, and other influential folks.  Because of purported connections with CIA, I do not have access to very much about him.  

It is known, however, that he had an agreement with Sandoz and import licenses from both Canada and the United States for LSD and thus the material that he promoted was of high quality.  Interestingly, it is thought that he was the person first to give Huxley LSD and also for the next person about whom we will discuss.  Here is a picture of him:

I would hope that commentators would be able to fill in some of those blanks.  A biography of him is at this link, but I do not know how reliable it is:  http://www.fargonebooks.com/hi…

One good source of information on several of these guys is the documentary the runs from time to time of The Documentary Channel called Dr. Hofmann’s Potion.

The most famous LSD proponent was Timothy Francis Leary.  Born in 1920 (19201022), he died of prostate cancer in 1996 (19960731).  His is a fascinating biography, and I can barely scratch the surface of his life.  He began his studies at Harvard in psychedelics with psilocybin provided by Sandoz in 1965.  That was the beginning of his evangelical mission.  Hubbard, mentioned above, came to visit him and traded some LSD for psilocybin some time later, and Leary quickly came to prefer the LSD.  There is a lot of information on Leary in the Internet and elsewhere, and it would be both boring and a waste of your time for me merely to repeat it.  However, there is a song by the Moody Blues, Legend of a mind, that is worth giving a listen.  This is a live version; I always like to see a band perform:

I will leave Tim with two statement more:  first, he was the de facto leader of the “East Coast” school of LSD advocates.  He founded the League for Spiritual Discovery, attempting to get the government to recognize LSD as a sacrament in this “church”, just as peyote is in the Native American Church.  It did not work.  However, the “East Coast” school was radically different in approach than the “West Coast” school which we will discuss directly.

The last thing about him you will not read in any other source.  It turns out that Translator has one degree of separation from Tim.  Here is the story.  I was a pup in 1976 attending a community college.  In my introduction to economics course, instructed by Dr. Dana, we had a mock election since it was Carter versus Ford.  I wrote in Tim for President and Abbie Hoffman (the Yippie) for Vice-President.  As Dr. Dana was tabulating the results, she came upon my ballot.  She looked at the classroom and exclaimed, “Who voted for Tim?  I used to work for him?”.  After class we sat and she told me about his demise at Harvard.  The official (Harvard) version is that he was guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to show up for his lectures, which he denied and Dr. Dana verified.  The real reason was that he was giving large amounts of LSD to undergraduates without authorization under his research program.  She told me that Tim got off more watching the students under the influence of LSD than he did taking it himself.  To paraphrase her, the crazier the students got, the more he liked it.  Harvard essentially would not tolerate this behavior and just fired him using their story as an excuse.  Since he was not tenured, that was not a whole lot that he could do.  This was in 1963, three years before LSD became illegal on the Federal level.  This is all that I will say about Leary.  Dr. Dana never indicated one way or another if she were one of the students, and I did not ask her.  (I actually have one degree of separation from Leary twice, since I have met Allen Ginsberg).

Here is a picture of him with Dr. Alpert (later Ram Dass) around the time of the Harvard debacle.  They did not look like wild-eyed hippies:

The “West Coast” school of LSD evangelism was much different the the East Coast one.  The West Coast school’s de facto leader was Ken Kesey, the author best known for One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  Translator has zero degrees of separation from Kesey, by the way, having seen him give a lecture in Fayetteville, Arkansas years ago.  Kesey was younger than the others, born in 1935 (19350817) and died in 2001 (20011110).  I strongly recommend reading Tom Wolfe’s book The Electric Kool-Aide Acid Test for a full account of the West Coast school, but here is a brief summary.  By the way, here are pictures of Kesey whilst young, and about the way that I saw him:

Kesey fell in with a bunch of people that came to be known as The Merry Pranksters, a loose confederation that included, from time to time, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassidy, Gurney Norman (the author of Divine Right’s Trip, published in the Whole Earth Catalog), and others.  The West Coast school of evangelism was to use LSD for fun, not for spiritual insight as was the purported purpose of the East Coast school.  As a matter of fact, Leary and Kesey had little use for each other.  The Pranksters were famous for conducting “acid tests” where unwitting subjects were dosed with fairly heavy amounts of LSD and essentially left to their own devices.

Intimately connected with the Pranksters were band The Grateful Dead.  They were also close with Owsley Stanley (mentioned last time) and The Jefferson Airplane.  As a matter of fact, Grace Slick of the Airplane is reported to have pained her fingernails with a solution of LSD in dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a solvent that the unusual ability to cause materials dissolved in it to pass through intact skin.  All she had to do to dose a person was to touch a fingernail to her or his skin.  A common college physiology demonstration is to dissolve a little vanilla in DMSO and touch a tiny drop on a toothpick to the skin.  Within a couple of minutes one is “tasting” (actually smelling) the vanilla that has entered the bloodstream.

Here is a clip of The Airplane’s White Rabbit with Slick performing lead vocals:

The Pranksters probably speeded up the inevitable in getting the State of California making LSD illegal even before the Feds did it.  I do not have an exact date, but it was before 19661006, when the Federal authorities banned it.  An interesting aspect of the Pranksters was that they drove around in a very highly decorated bus, called “Further”.  One of my readers has a good picture and I would ask for this person to post it in a comment.  This bus was also the idea behind The Who’s Magic Bus, but I am unaware of any other connection between The Who and the Pranksters.

I could keep going, but documentary information is available widely about all of the folks whom I have mentioned (except for Hubbard) and it would not be a wise use of resources merely to copy and paste, let alone the Fair Use guidelines.  Next time we will look at the influence that LSD had on music, art, and culture during the psychedelic era.

Well, you have done it again.  You have wasted a perfectly good batch of electrons reading this nonsense.  And even though Senator Ensign denounces The Family whenever he reads me say it, I always learn much more than I could possibly hope to teach writing these posts, so please keep questions, comments, corrections, and suggestions coming.  Remember, no technical issue is off topic here.

Update:  due to popular demand, here is the complete bibliography for this series:














Warmest regards,


Crossposted at Dailykos.com


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  1. people from the past?

    On another note, I can not get the html for a a couple of the pictures to work.  They work fine on Kos, but not here.  Can an admin type look and see what is wrong with my code?  Thanks!

    Warmest regards,


  2. Recently one of my husband’s fencing buddies, one each Paul Romney, passed away from a stroke. His health was poor due to excessive hard drug use, hence his early death. His body was rode hard and put away wet.

    Paul’s elder brother Hugh is better known as “Wavy Gravy” of the Merry Pranksters/Grateful Dead camp followers/hardcore hippies/peace activists. I’m surprised you didn’t mention him.

    According to my husband Paul was an excellent fencer of enviable natural talent, a wild and crazy “rolling stone” who did not play by society’s rules, and (apparently) quite the inveterate fibber. Some of the more eyebrow raising tales Paul would tell were of being part of a Vietnam “death squad” who would hunt down American renegades and deserters (his tales of military service were considered questionable by my husband who enlisted at the tail end of the war himself), and frequent allusions to work with the CIA. One thing that was never in question was his proficiency in the various martial arts he chose to study, so perhaps this last bit wasn’t entirely a fabrication; although his braggadocio probably infers that he probably served more as a paid informant than an actual operative.

    I also wouldn’t be a bit surprised at Paul’s CIA connections given how closely they were following LSD use (and exploiting it) when it first became popular. VERY convenient that his brother Hugh was wandering hither and yon dispensing the stuff… shows that the spooks and the hippies are never very far away from each other when it comes to certain things.

  3. …a stalwart of the literary community, had tripped on Mt. Chuckanut with the Pranksters.  And one of my profs at Evergreen was a regular visitor to the farm.  I was not aware they had dosed people unknowing (I’d love a cite) though given the attitudes of the times, it isn’t that surprising.  

    In addition to the hyjinks that Mr. Wolfe documented, they also managed to touch the worldview of academics and the professorial intelligensia, in many places.  Kesey, as near as I can tell from everything I’ve read about him, was allergic to Leary and Ram Das/Alpert’s east coast intellectualism.  I think his idea of “fun” was expansive, transcended categories, in a mode which more button down types might not even get…

    It wasn’t…without direction, as near as I can tell about events I was too young to know firsthand.


  4. I am glad to see you are feeling better and posting!  Admittedly, I have not yet read all of this, but will!  

    IMHO, you needn’t apologize for your “emotional outburst” — it was real and heartfelt.  Everyone, I believe, understood that.  And, BTW, there have others before you!  ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Just happy to see you’re “pursuing” it all!  :O)

  5. My mother gave me a first edition of Howl and Kerouac is one of my favorite authors.

    Touching Huxley, I find it interesting that he was aware early of what Gov sanctioned Pharmaceuticals could do in the negative aspect to the human psyche (soma) and yet he was clearly stating that natural trumps chemical everytime (in the comparison of the rebel wild people outside the barriers of civilization)

    The more civilized we pretend to be, the more savage we become.

    I have been told that if you do more than 5-7 hits of LSD you are considered legally insane. Is that true? If so, I am certifiable! LOL

    If it broadens the perspective of the human mind, it is a good thing IMHO. That is certainly why it is illegal, as pot and other non violent no addictive drugs are.

    This nation LOVES legal over the counter drugs sold by BIG Pharma. It’s the stuff that is beneficial for healthy minds that is illegal. Funny, that.

  6. Magic Bus Pictures, Images and Photos

    and an interesting website on Kesey et al here with quite a few pics.

    Ive wondered what was it, back in the 80’s, that was goin’ around as “acid” b/c I was pretty sure it was not actually LSD at all. Just my opinion.

    Good essay.

    • TMC on July 20, 2009 at 04:46

    Great follow up. BTW. Congrats. Rec List here and at orange

  7. Slightly O/T… was just listening to a Walter Cronkite tribute on CBS teevee.  Apparently he was a big fan of the Grateful Dead – Mickey Hart was interviewed on the program and they were good buddies.  

    This one’s for Walter!  My favorite Dead song – China Cat Sunflower

  8. for which I am unprepared.  All that I can say is “Thank you”.  Nothing that I wrote deserved this, but I very much appreciate the honor.

    Warmest regards,


  9. I had one bad trip (my first probably because I took two tabs of white blotter and  my fellow traveller passed out) but then had several good trips although I have no urge to do it again, I mostly had fun memories of being unbearably silly and goofy with my friends.

    Then in the early eighties ectasy emerged and we just called it by its chemical name MDMA and I played with that.

    I would smoke weed again but wouldn’t want to lose my job through random testing. Truthfully very few of my friends I did drugs with ended up being the fried egg in the pan. We all just moved on to other phases of our lives.

    I was born in 64 so I mostly missed the sixties vibe except as a child observing.

    • Joy B. on July 20, 2009 at 19:02

    Was the first book I’d read that actually made me cry. Something about “what could have been” but wasn’t, because (since I had some experience with LSD) the drug could only bring you to the door. It couldn’t open it, or push you through.

    Though I’ll add the great legend of Gracie’s attempt to dose the punch at Tricia Nixon’s White House alum get-together. Seems they’d been classmates in college and Gracie got an invite. Painted her nails and got dressed up, but when she showed the SS wouldn’t let her in. I always wondered what would have been if she’d managed to get to the punch bowl… ยง;o)

  10. Owsley (sp?)and the Dude on the bicycle. It was bigger then Jesus, and opened my universe, which was revealed in half a grapefruit and a crash lesson on whats important. As for abuse it’s one of those things that you know when enough is enough, the legal drugs the dose us with are the real abusive ones. I lost a brother to LSD and the war of then (He was an outcast draft dodger). He never knew when to stop always took it to the limit and then some. Although as he said in another culture he would have been considered a Shaman.

    I keep writing in, on ballots of crap, in to this day, Jerry Brown the one time candidate that took on Clinton and election reform. He was Gov. of my state as a youth and quite the Zen ruler. As for Kesey and the pranksters he irritated the crap out of me as a woman o spirit he was quite the macho patriarchal asshole, great writer but too Norman Mailer in his own hippie way. His  exwife Nancy makes great yogurt however. I lost a brother to LSD and the war of then (He was an outcast draft dodger). He never knew when to stop always took it to the limit and then some.  

    • RUKind on July 21, 2009 at 08:13

    I felt like a spiritul Johnny Appleseed doing my best to turn on the world to the spiritual experience of LSD. Afte wr the Watts Acid Test a lot of surfers who attended began to spread it like wildfire thorugh the west coast and east-west coast travelling surfer routes.

    Surfing itself is the most spiritual of all sports. To play where ocean meets land under the sun in the wind-created waves of energy that roll ashore, stand and break is to inhabit a divine space on the plaet. To actually paddle out and ride that energy pulse to its demise on the shore is truly to play in God’s best made playground.

    I began my search for some LSD afte the Life magazine articles in 1964-65. I was a junior in high school and just beginning to surf in March of 1965. One of the older guys had been at the Watts acid test and had brought some back. After a lot of grovelling, he parted with some and on Sep 25, 1966, eleven days before LSD was made illegal in the US, I got my first dose.

    After that my only desire was to turn on the world. I was the Eskimo for my beach and surrounding towns. It was “Flynn the Eskimo”, not “Quinn the Eskimo”. I guess Bob needed the fricative “ka” for a match with the ‘k’ in Eskimo. ;-);-);-).

    I’ve been at 500+ since the 80s. Saw the Dead with Pigpen a few dozen times. Been there, done that, got boxes of decades old t-shirts that have been air-dried only.

    The LSD spiritual is the real deal. I’ve come to it both by the sacrament and by life practice. The only difference is life pratice makes it a permanent state if you  work at it constantly. Dropping a hit or two or five or eight will get you there but the hang time is only a few hours and then it’s back to being the same old you but mellower for up to 6 – 8 moths accordig to the latest research.

    For the truly interested, get a copy of Storming Heaven for the FULL version of the history. Read that and I can add some more interesting pieces on top of that.


    Flynn the Eskimo/RUKind

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