LSD [3 perspectives]

Ron Silliman (
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 18:34:41 -0500


Owsley's first name is Stanley, I believe. He hung out with the
Grateful Dead after doing his stint in prison and was listed in some of
their literature as their "travel coordinator."

Having had a source for Sandoz for much of 1965, I found Owsley's stuff
overrated and unreliable. Although by comparison with what came later,
it was the work of a Michaelangelo. By the time it became habitual to
cut acid with speed (late 67 or 68), it was time for this boy to stop.

Ron Silliman


A quick response to Steve Graw's recent post...

> The most famous
>of these was <first name - help, acid heads!?> Owsley III, reportedly scion
>of a wealthy family, who later served jail time for his laboratory and
>charitable efforts (there's a story on him in one of the late '60s Ramparts
>issues). I believe it wasn't until 1966 that the California State
>legislature made the drug illegal....

The above references are to: Augustus Owsley Stanley III; and California's
law criminalizing LSD which took effect on 6 Oct. 1966. The latter event
was greeted by the nascent counterculture in the Haight-Ashbury with a
protest/celebration called the "Love Pageant Rally." It constituted the
first of the open-air public gatherings that would soon be known as "be-ins."

Two of the best recent sources on this topic (in addition to Charles Perry's
book cited earlier in this thread) are:

Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, _Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of
LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond_ (rev. ed.; NY: Grove Weidenfeld, 1992)

Jay Stevens, _Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream_ (NY, etc.: Harper
& Row, 1988 [c.1987]

Michael Wm. Doyle Department of History
49 Penny Lane 451 McGraw Hall
Ithaca, NY 14850-6269 Cornell University
(607) 277-3243 Ithaca, NY 14853-4601
E-Mail: Fax: (607)255-0469


S. Graw:
> >Nevertheless, can anyone remember the following message presented in a
> >book that Leary wrote with Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert:
> >
> >of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting." (from THE

Metzner kinda disappeared from the scene--dropped out <tm>, perhaps. What
ever became of him after his "Maps of Consciousness" book?
> >
> >The message here seems to place priority on the circumstances of use. I
> >guess the question that I want to ask is whether people remember this
> >message getting out to most users or if people remember Leary simply
> >advocating unrestrained use, period?

I don't think it was a matter of one of the other--I think Leary, if he
cared about consistancy at all, probably would say that unrestrained use
would eventually lead to a set and setting that would expand your
consciousness the "correct" way. Leary often would lecture "high"
because he wanted to be in touch with the experience he was talking
about. He was not known for reasoned argument--he was trying to get
away from the bounds of logic after all.

> >
> Mike Martin's informative post evokes some recollections: 1st, in 1964 LSD
> was still legal (and unknown as a chemical and a social issue) almost

Are you sure it was still legal in '64? I remember in 62 it was (for 16
year old me) hard to come by--I had to make do with pot then. We all
knew it would be illegal soon enough. When I finally took some in 66 it
was certainly illegal.

> everywhere. While a few intellectuals Like A. Huxley had published tracts
> mentioning peyotl and other hallucinagenic drugs, even the word
> <psychedelic> was not widely known. LSD spread as an idea by word of mouth,

The media had already heard of it. It just wasn't front page stuff yet
but I'd certainly read about it before 64.

> actually millenarian, revolution was just over the horizon. The most famous
> of these was <first name - help, acid heads!?> Owsley III, reportedly scion

Stanley but that may not be his real first name. Augustus, or some
such. At one point he was refered to cryptically as "Bear".

> So Leary, Metzner and Alpert (the incipient Baba Ram Das, the former
> railroad fortune heir), whether by design or coincidence, produced a book
> that was critically relevant to the propagation of LSD. By appropriating
> tropes and language from "The Tibetan Book of the Dead," they imbued
> "Psychedelic Experience" with the mysticism and mystery (recall
> "Orientalism" was yet to appear in the intellectual milieux and cheap jets
> were yet to reach Khatmandu) of exotic Tibet while also invoking connections
> to Zen that readers of Kerouac, Snyder and Ginsberg were familiar with. All
> in all an appealing and attractive attempt to structure this new phenomenon
> of the 'psychedelic trip!

Though the book was passed around here and there, I think it remained as
unread as _A_Brief_History_of_Time_. It was more of a fetish object or
hip paraphrenailia. Even I, who read my share of Alan Watts, spent
little time worrying about the Tibetan Book when I tripped.


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