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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 Americaav Don Lattin151
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This book is the story of how three brilliant scholars and one ambitious freshman crossed paths in the early sixties at a Harvard-sponsored psychedelic-drug research project, transforming their lives and American culture and launching the mind/body/spirit movement that inspired the explosion of yoga classes, organic produce, and alternative medicine. The four men came together in a time of upheaval and experimentation, and their exploration of an expanded consciousness set the stage for the social, spiritual, sexual, and psychological revolution of the 1960s. Timothy Leary would be the rebellious trickster, the premier proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD, advising a generation to 'turn on, tune in, and drop out'. Richard Alpert would be the seeker, traveling to India and returning to America as Ram Dass, reborn as a spiritual leader with his 'Be Here Now' mantra, inspiring a restless army of spiritual pilgrims. Huston Smith would be the teacher, practicing every world religion, introducing the Dalai Lama to the West, and educating generations of Americans to adopt a more tolerant, inclusive attitude toward other cultures' beliefs. And young Andrew Weil would be the healer, becoming the undisputed leader of alternative medicine, devoting his life to the holistic reformation of the American health care system. It was meant to be a time of joy, of peace, and of love, but behind the scenes lurked backstabbing, jealousy, and outright betrayal. In spite of their personal conflicts, the members of the Harvard Psychedelic Club would forever change the way we all view religion and practice medicine, and the very way we look at body and soul.
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"[An] unexpectedly grounded story...makes sense of a complicated movement so often reduced to its parody-ready costumes, haircuts, and groovy lingo. And [Lattin] does it with authority and an evenhanded understanding of the good, the bad, and the crazy of it." -- The New York Times Book Review Many of the stories in this book have been told elsewhere, but Lattin tells them with new energy and weaves them together to create a satisfying narrative that re-creates and explains the era. -- San Francisco Chronicle Book Review In this beautifully constructed study, Lattin brings together four of the most memorable figures from that period...this is a fast-moving, dispassionate recounting of a seminal period in our history, and all in all, a wonderful book. -- Publishers Weekly (starred review) A terrific social history of a fascinating historical period ... laugh-aloud passages make this an entertaining read. -- Booklist (starred review) With care and considerable humor, Don Lattin shows us how the interwoven relationships of four charismatic visionaries contributed to the expansion of mind that changed American culture forever. The way we eat, pray, and love have all been conditioned by their lives and teachings. -- Mirabai Bush, co-founder and Senior Fellow of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, co-author (with Ram Dass) of Compassion in Action I suspect I'm not the only person who thought the psychedelics-at-Harvard story had been pretty well settled, but Lattin's work has widened my perspective considerably. By focusing on Huston Smith and Andrew Weil as well as Leary and Alpert, he's created a stimulating and thoroughly engrossing read. -- Dennis McNally, author of A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead, and Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America The Harvard Psychedelic Club is not only a great read, it's also an unforgettable head trip. Lattin weaves a masterful tale of 1960s-style spirituality, professional jealousy, and out-of-body experiences. Lattin has done his homework and it shows. Read this book and expand your mind. No hallucinogenics required. -- Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Bliss A revealing account of four iconic personalities who helped define an era, sowed seeds of consciousness, and left indelible marks in the lives of spiritual explorers to this day. The Conclusion is alone worth the price of the book. -- Dan Millman, author of The Peaceful Warrior "Lattin succeeds where less accomplished chroniclers of this period have failed." -- San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times "A rousing tale of jealousy, drugs, betrayal, vengeance, careerism and academic intrigue with a Harvard accent-it also carries the moral that brains alone won't make you holy." -- Shelf Awareness "Outstanding book." -- Cleveland Plain-Dealer "A fast, funny, and savvy book that dishes about some of the most celebrated figures in the American counterculture." -- Jewish Journal of Los Angeles "The Harvard Psychedelic Club's intimate, revealing vista makes the book soar, and, as Lattin hopes, just might inspire today's idealists to carve a new path and profoundly change the world as these four dynamic visionaries once did." -- Miami Herald "Lattin's snappy conversational prose and poignant insights into his subjects' often-tortured personal lives make his book worth the trip." -- Washington City Paper "...raucous, witty and licentious... [Lattin] has created a post-Kerouac road scholar classic." -- The Edge "With equal parts keen historicity and great humor, Lattin... chronicles how these founding fathers of the so-called New Age movement in the U.S. and worldwide met at Harvard in the early 60s and - despite rivalries, infighting and backstabbing - managed to change the spiritual landscape for generations to come." -- Chicago Sun-Times "Lattin weaves the biographies of these brillian
Don Lattin is one of the nation's leading journalists covering alternative and mainstream religious movements and figures in America. His work has appeared in dozens of U.S. magazines and newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle, where he covered the religion beat for nearly two decades. Lattin has also worked as a consultant and commentator for Dateline, Primetime, Good Morning America, Nightline, Anderson Cooper 360, and PBS's Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. He is 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, and is the coauthor of Shopping for Faith: American Religion in the New Millennium.