Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

     If anyone reading the title of this post recognizes the words, it is likely that you grew up in the 1960s. 'Turn on, tune in, drop out' was the counter-culture phrase of  Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996), American psychologist, writer and Harvard professor known for his advocacy of psychedelic drugs (see post: Altered States of Consciousness).

Timothy Leary
     Leary believed LSD showed therapeutic potential for use in psychiatry, a focus that was similar to the interests of Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron  of the Allan Memorial Institute of McGill University in Montreal (1957 to 1964) who carried out research for the C.I.A. into mind-controlling drugs, 'truth' drugs as well as schizophrenia (see post: The Author and the Addict).
     Leary earned his Masters Degree in psychology at  Washington State University in 1946, and his Ph.D in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley in 1950. He travelled to Mexico with where he ate psilocybin mushrooms (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The New World) for the first time, for Leary, a life-altering experience. With the experience of psilocybin, Leary claimed that he had 'learned more about ... (his) brain and its possibilities ... (and) more about psychology in the five hours after taking these mushrooms than ... (he) had in the preceding fifteen years of studying and doing research in psychology'.

Psilocybin Mushrooms
     Following his return to the U.S., Leary and an associate started the Harvard Psilocybin Project (an endeavour which eventually lost him his position at the university) to study the effects of the drug on human subjects. Despite his discharge from Harvard faculty, a number of spin-off projects continued led by graduate students or co-workers, including: The Marsh Chapel Experiment (the Good Friday Experiment) was run by  a graduate student in theology at. The goal was to see if in religiously predisposed subjects, psilocybin would act as a reliable entheogen, a drug which would induce religious experiences (see post: Drugs Used in Religion-The Old World).

Leary withJohn and Yoko in Montreal
     Almost all of the subjects who took part in the study reported experiencing profound religious experiences, providing  support for the concept that psychedelic drugs could facilitate religious experiences; the Concord Prison Experiment which was designed to evaluate the effects of psilocybin combined with psychotherapy on rehabilitation of released prisoners. After being guided through the psychedelic experience ('trips') by Leary and his associates, 36 prisoners allegedly repented and swore to give up future criminal activity. Leary's career became fraught with legal difficulties due to drug advocacy and drug use. He was imprisoned for trying to bring cannabis into the U.S. from Mexico.
     On June 1, 1969, Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal 'bed-in' with Lennon subsequently writing Leary a campaign song (Leary ran for governorship of California against Ronald Regan) called 'Come Together'.
A Pegasus Rocket

      In early 1995, Leary was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer and died the next year. Seven grams of Leary's ashes were arranged 'buried in space' aboard a rocket carrying the remains of 24 other people including Gene Rodenberry (creator of Star trek). The rocket containing Leary's remains was launched on April 21, 1997, and remained in orbit for six years until it burnt up in the atmosphere.

Terence McKenna

     Terence Kemp McKenna (November 16, 1946 – April 3, 2000) was an American philosopher, researcher, teacher, lecturer and writer on many subjects, such as human consciousness, language, psychedelic drugs, the evolution of civilizations, the origin and end of the universe, alchemy, and extraterrestrial beings. In 1963, McKenna was introduced to the literary world of psychedelics through 'The Doors of Perception' and 'Heaven and Hell' by Aldous Huxley (see post: TheAuthor and the Addict). 

     McKenna claimed that one of his early psychedelic experiences with morning glory seeds (see post: MotherNature's Psychedelic Roadside Drug Store) made him realise 'that there was something there, worth pursuing'.  Mckenna began smoking cannabis regularly during the summer following his 17th birthday and while in college, in 1967, he begun studying shamanism (see post: The Shaman) through the study of Tibetan folk religion. In 1969, McKenna traveled to Nepal where he worked as a hashish smuggler, until 'one of his Bombay-to-Aspen shipments fell into the hands of U. S. Customs'.

     McKenna switched majors to a Bachelor of Science in ecology and conservation when he returned to Berkeley and soon after graduating, McKenna and his brother, Dennis published a book inspired by their Amazon experiences, 'The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens and the I Ching', relating to their consumption of ayahuasca.
     After the publication of his second book, 'True Hallucinations', McKenna, like Leary became a fixture of popular counterculture. These were followed by several more books which promoted his predilection towards 'Altered States of Consciousness' (see post: Altered States of Consciousness) via the ingestion of naturally occurring psychedelic substances.


     But perhaps, KcKenna is most famous for his 'Stoned Ape Theory of Human Evolution'. According to McKenna, it was the psychedelic mushroom which had also given humans their first truly religious experiences and it was the potency to promote of the mushroom that led to 'linguistic thinking', promoting vocalisation and speech. In 1985, McKenna co-founded Botanical Dimensions with his then-wife Kathleen, in Hawaii, where he lived for many years before he died of glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive brain cancer.

Graham Hancock
     Graham Hancock (born 2 August 1950 in Edinburgh, Scotland) is a writer and journalist (formerly for The Economist magazine) who specialises in unconventional theories involving ancient civilizations, megaliths, ancient myths and astronomical/astrological data from the past.

     His 'stand-out' book, entitled 'Supernatural' is a fascinating adventure into the world of paleolithic cave art and mind-altering substances. In it, Hancock see the 'Machine Elves' described much like McKenna did, both men, under the influence of DMT.
     Is this evidence to support McKenna's 'Stoned Ape Theory of Human Evolution'? Is this supportive of the idea that the brain is a 'receiver', opened up by certain pharmaceuticals that allow us to perceive messages from 'alien beings'? After all, the two men, under the influence of the same/similar drugs did see virtually the same things.

Sigmund Freud
     Perhaps the most famous researcher who investigated and used pharmaceuticals was the Austrian neurologist and father of the discipline of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (Sigismund Schlomo Freud 6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939). Freud was an early user and proponent of cocaine as a stimulant, anti-depressant, pain-killer and a cure for morphine addiction. Despite witnessing a friend experience 'cocaine psychosis' and subsequently revert to his addiction for morphine, Freud continued to use cocaine on a daily basis for 'depression, migraine and nasal inflammation' during the early 1890s, before giving it up in 1896.

     It has been suggested that much of Freud's early psychoanalytical theory was a by-product of his cocaine use. In September 1939, Freud, who was suffering from throat cancer and in severe pain, persuaded his doctor and friend Max Schur to help him commit suicide. On 21 and 22 September, 1939, Schur administered doses of morphine to his friend, relieving his suffering and allowing Freud to die.
     For an interesting audio by Terence McKenna, 'Mushrooms are an Extra-Terrestrial Phone, click on the link 'The Best Interview About Drugs' below:
     Graham Hancock's most recent non-fiction book, 'Supernatural: Meetings With the Ancient Teachers of Mankind' (published in the UK in October 2005 and in the US in 2006) examines paleolithic cave art, its relation to drug use and the development of the 'fully modern human mind'.
     His first novel, 'Entangled: The Eater of Souls' makes use of Hancock's prior research interests much as he described in 'Supernatural'.
     A (rather long) talk by Graham Hancock concerning his novel 'Entangled' relates to many of these experiences he recounts in 'Supernatural'. Click on the link: 'Elves, Aliens, Angels and Ayahuasca' below.

     * The history of narcotics use: subject of research for the novel Whip the Dogs - Amazon Kindle

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