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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
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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

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  649 ratings  ·  120 reviews
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 toget
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Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by HarperOne (first published December 16th 2009)
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Eh?Eh!
I was firstreads-less for a year because I wasn't able to review the first firstreads I had won (after writing a 'review' about why I hadn't reviewed it earlier, bam, I win my 2nd firstreads book). Just in case lacking a review prevents one from winning again, I'm sticking this filler in for now.

Real review forthcoming...if the weather doesn't thwart the postalperson from delivering the book this time.

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I'm one of the few people who have never been high or stoned (or
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Gretchen
It's funny, something about Andrew Weil always repelled me. If this journalist is to be believed, at all, there's good reason for it. He is an ambitious, conniving RAT in the ugliest sense of the word. His being a rat may have been related to the fact that he was the fat (but equally smart and probably more talented) kid who was rejected, while the pretty boys got to join the party, which is something for our culture to consider.

It always interests me how "Harvard Men," for example, think that t
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Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ken
The subtitle of this book is especially revealing; "How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America"....

That about sums up the thesis of the book. I was familiar with Ram Dass(Richard Alpert) and Tim Leary, but I was unfamiliar with Weil and Smith's role in this historical change in America's consciousness. Timothy Leary is "The Trickster". He even said that one gets, "The Timothy Leary that one deserves". He was both liar and ex
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Mary M
Doctor Weil the health-food guy? Didn't know he was iconic in this context. Should be interesting.

Almost through, and pretty sure that books by journalists are some of the worst-written books ever. By that, I mean that books such as this are interesting for what they tell about people and events that are integral to American social evolution--or devolution, one may say in a different mood--but that I was too young to pay attention to when they were in the news; on the other hand, the ham-fisted,
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Brendan
Overall, this book provides a decent introduction to the story of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's involvement with LSD and other psychedelic drugs. If you haven't read any other book on Leary, Alpert, LSD or psychedelic drugs, this would provide a relatively solid and accurate introduction to the topic. However, I do have quite a few complaints with the book itself. First and foremost, the inclusion of Andrew Weil and Huston Smith to the cast of main characters adds little to the story. Andre ...more
Nancy Oakes
The real title of this book is a long one: 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. It's a good book if you're into this sort of thing, easily readable and it raises a lot of questions for further exploration.

Lattin's central thesis is that these four men, "three brilliant scholars and one ambitious freshman," who were all together at Harvard University in the early 1960s, were able to transfo
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Marvin
The definitive book of the psychedelic movement of the 60s has yet to be written. Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test comes awfully close. But while it succeeds in capturing the mood and times, it doesn't give you a sense of where the movement came from and where it went. The best book as yet to get that information may be The Harvard Psychedelic Club. Don Lattin focuses on four of the most important personages of the time and how their involvement defined the 60s. He describes the roles ...more
Erik
An enjoyable read about culture, competition and experiences of radical-non-duality. Some of these things are easier to write about than others - to paraphrase a music critic's truism, writing about mysticism is like dancing about architecture. I would've loved more time with Huston Smith, and a little less with Leary. What can I say - that guy just gives me the creeps. Clearly, he was the most wrapped up in psychedelic culture, and it was interesting to find out about his time on the run, and t ...more
Louise
Author Don Lattin discusses the impact that key participants in the 1950's Harvard LSD studies had on today's culture through four biographies. He shows how the lives of each of the four intersected and how each followed his respective passion.

New ideas on nutrition and medical treatment advanced by Andrew Weil and perspectives on religion advanced by Huston Smith and Richard Alpert/Ram Das, once considered unorthodox are now mainstream. The most famous participant of them all, Timothy Leary, wa
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Timothy Hallinan
A cautionary tale about psychotropic drugs and scholarly arrogance featuring Tim Leary, Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), religious historian Huston Smith, and the serpent in the garden, Andrew Weil. A riveting read for anyone who's experienced psychedelics, or just has some curiosity about where the hell the Sixties came from. Weil ratted out Leary and Alpert at Harvard -- got them fired -- not because of any principled moral stand but because they wouldn't give him any dope although they turned o ...more
Richard
very good book should be read along with Kripal's book "Esalen".
Liam
"To fathom hell or soar angelic / Just take a pinch of psychedelic." (66, quoting Humphrey Osmond)

"'About a third of what I've said is just flat-out bullshit. About a third of what I've said is just dead wrong. But a third of what I've said have been home runs. So I'm batting .333, which puts me in the Hall of Fame.'" (126, quoting Timothy Leary)
Betterthanfiction
What we now associate with Timothy Leary - LSD, Grateful Dead concerts, hippies, tuning in and dropping out, first started out as psychological experiments at Harvard University. Leary, a charismatic and well-liked professor, hoped to help inmates rehabilitate by giving them mystical experiences via LSD. His early partners, lab assistants and fellow researchers soon became sucked into the LSD world. Leary looses his job and home, gets kicked out of one country after another and finally ends up b ...more
Louis
Don Lattin’s 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 profiles how some of the leading figures of the 1960’s counter-culture movement crossed paths and became so influential. One of the more striking features of this book is the extent to which Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass) believed in what they were doing: both genuinely believed that they could change the world with psychedelic ...more
Debi Robertson
For those of us who lived through this period in time and servived, this is an excellant reminder of all those people you read about and never understood where it was coming from and why. Both my husband and I enjoyed this book. It helped us to understand that period of time even more and gave us insights into 'stuff' particularly music, that we were unaware of.
It is well written. I thought at first I was going to need a 'family' tree to sort out all the characters, but after awhile they starte
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Judy
This book covers the Timothy Leary years with his fellow Harvard profs and their drug experiments. However, it does go beyond those years to explain what happened in their lives as a result of not only their experiments but their devotion to several drugs and the effects on their friends and families. The book is interesting about a time when drugs were an enigma to many and the experimentation was groundbreaking. Leary already had issues with marriage and parenthood before taking drugs regularl ...more
Julie Barrett
I read The Electric Koolaid Acid Trip many, many years ago and enjoyed it. When I saw the cover of this book, I recalled the scene in the Acid Trip book where the pranksters show up at the Millbrook mansion to meet & hang out with Timothy Leary. They are all shocked and horrified to find out how waspy & square & uptight everyone is there. That's odd, I thought at the time I read that scene. Leary is Mr LSD himself, how is he square? This book by Lattin both clears up my confusion abo ...more
Jamie
I think I kind of perhaps liked this book. Sort of. Maybe.

I didn't learn a lot from this book. Still, I know that I've read a lot of books along these lines so I'm not sure that I'm really the person who WOULD learn anything from it. It's a serviceable introduction to these four men, but one that requires you read other sources to really get the full picture. The only person that I was really fascinated by was Huston Smith, perhaps because I knew the least about him beforehand. Timothy Leary com
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David
This book tells the tale of four men who crossed paths in the winter of 1960-1961, and how their shared experience in a Harvard psychedelic research project changed their lives and affected American culture in the 1960s and 1970s. There is Huston Smith, the teacher, who studied various world religions and educated Americans to adopt a more tolerant attitude toward other cultures’ religions. Richard Alpert is the seeker; his psychedelic path led him to India, and he returned to America as “Ram Da ...more
Patrick C.
This is a fascinating account of four of the main personalities associated with the research with psychedelic drugs at Harvard University under the leadership of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass). Lots of personal, even gossipy, details throughout. Two other prominent personalities are featured - Huston Smith, Harvard professor of religion and a prominent author, and Andrew Weil, now famous for his advocacy of psychedelics and alternative healing.

Very interesting is the revelation (for
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Ira Therebel
A book about the 60's psychedelic culture and four men who played a big role in starting it.

Let's just start with some issues that I had with this book.

The main one is the fact that it includes some made up dialogues. I can understand that technique used in historical fiction, but in a non fiction book this blows. This and the fact that the author was kind of subjective in his views to the issue made it harder to completely believe the book.

Another problem was that he created a nickname for each
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Glenn
Timothy Leary, Dick Alpert, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil's lives all converged at Harvard in 1960, and soon none of them (and none of us) were ever the same. The reason? Psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic was a word that didn't even exist in 1960. The genesis of it is one of the neat stories that makes this book worth reading. There's all kinds of tidbits, like the basic story of Andrew Weil ratting out Leary and Alpert at Harvard, mostly out of spite for not being given good drugs. Also, who knew t ...more
Patrick O'Neil
Don Lattin has always written about quasi-religious "fringe elements." Either whacked out cults with inbred sex (Jesus Freaks), or long strange trips in search of spirituality (Shopping for Faith/Following Your Bliss). His books are bold exposés that attest to his journalist background (he was the the San Francisco Chronicle's religious editor for twenty years). Yet, like all good journalism is supposed to be, his writing has always felt removed - describing the history, the event, the situation ...more
Brook
I'm a big fan of books that take a personal angle on big topics, explaining ideas and eras through the people who moved them forward. But I was still surprised how much I liked this book, after I stopped comparing its sometimes-flat narrative to the brilliance of the similarly-titled The Metaphysical Club. A great introduction to people who have always been just 60s idols to me. Who knew that Andrew Weil, that Andrew Weil M.D. was the one who "betrayed" Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert/Ram Dass ...more
Birgit
If you've only heard of Timothy Leary as the 'father' of "Tune in, turn on, and drop out" counterculture LSD-addled hippiedom, and have read Huston Smith only in terms of comparative religion classes in college, have no clue who Ram Dass was or is, and know of Andrew Weil only as an old hippie dude who has figured out how to market himself and his products, then you're in for a treat. Their connections going back to Harvard and the very early 1960s make for an interesting read. I am a tad turned ...more
Heather
Perhaps the fact that I didn't live through the 60s is what kept me from enjoying this book. I really can't put my finger on what bothered me about it, but I certainly wanted to like it a lot more than I ultimately did. I thought the narrative jumped around unnecessarily, and the reconstructed conversations and descriptions of acid trips were awkward. It also felt at times that Lattin was trying to force these four men into a preconceived narrative when in reality their lives did not intersect m ...more
Kathy
I really enjoyed this book. Even though I was alive and semi-aware at the time, I never realized all four of these guys were at Harvard doing drugs at the same time. That is hardly a fair way to categorize their experience, BUT it is true in essence. The details of their relationships to each other, to their areas of study and to LSD are fascinating. You will enjoy it.
I do have to add a plug for THE ELECTRIC ACID KOOL-AID TEST. These four felt you should be taking drugs to enlarge your experien
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Chris Faraone
Don Lattin has had some enlightening trips of his own. In addition to a number of cliffhanging LSD adventures — one of which scrambled his melon for a month — the decorated San Francisco religion reporter traveled cross-continent to talk with the characters who famously ushered hallucinogens into pop-culture consciousness. I asked Lattin about his interviews with Baba Ram Dass (the former Harvard psychology professor Richard Alpert), former MIT professor and religion scholar Huston Smith, and al ...more
Emma Lynne
I'm about halfway through and I like it, somewhat. I like the content, and it seems like Lattin has done some good and thorough research. I don't like the "groovy" way he draws it all out. Just because it's a book about drugs, doesn't mean I don't need rock lyrics name dropped every three paragraphs, thank you very much.
In fact, I can't help but think about the section in "Waiting for the Man" where Shapiro talks about the acid movement. That book focused primarily on drugs' role in music, and
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Don Lattin is a freelance jounalist and a religion writer who seems to be hopelessly stuck in the sixties. He is one of the nation's leading reporters covering alternative religious movements and figures in America. Over the past three decades he has covered Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones, Branch Davidian prophet David Koresh, and Heaven's Gate founder Marshall Herff Applewhite. He has also writt ...more
More about Don Lattin...
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“Nisker wasn’t really in the mood for an LSD trip. After all, he was in a car and heading toward the Oakland–San Francisco Bay Bridge. Then Scoop started thinking to himself. Well, the guy is the “high priest of LSD.” What else can I do? When else am I going to get a chance like this? So, Nisker dropped the acid. By the time they got to the radio station Scoop was so stoned he couldn’t put two words together. But Leary sat down behind the microphone and just let out all this beautiful, flowing prose. He was his usual glib, funny self. Nisker was melting into the floor, mumbling to himself. But there was Leary, totally in charge of himself—so charismatic, so facile. What a performance!” 2 likes
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