Harvard giveth, Harvard taketh away. In the Sunday edition of the Boston Globe, the world will be astonished to note, LSD gets panned by none other than Allan Y. Cohen, teaching fellow in Social Relations, and one of the first and most militant of the psychedelic proseletyzers.
Cohen presents his credentials early in the article ("I have taken LSD many times"), and a note reveals that he spent some time at Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's Castalia Foundation. But then, when the acid-heads know he's on their side of the chasm: pow.
"The use of psychedelic drugs is an energy-sapping addiction...and is inappropriate as a method for spiritual growth," writes Cohen. He indicts both LSD and marijuana.
Appeal to a Guru
The condemnation stems somewhat from the anti-drug pronouncement of one particularly well-thought-of Indian religious ascetic, Avatar Meher Baba. American psychedelists had appealed to this guru for spiritual advice even some journeying to India "forever," for "the Truth," as part of a widespread LSD-nick Orientalism. But it was ironic, Cohen writes, that, "encouraged by the apparent fit of the Eastern metaphors (for hallucinogenic mystical experiences), the psychedelic vanguard overlooked the fact that Eastern spiritual leaders had consistently dissuaded their disciples from using drugs for spiritual advancement."
Cohen quotes a letter from Baba to an unnamed leader of the American psychedelists dumping mercilessly on the drug-takers' pretentions to religiosity. "The experiences you elaborate," wrote the old Indian, "are as far removed from Reality as is a mirage from water.... The Search for God through drugs must end in disillusionment.... Indulgence in drugs is harmful physically, mentally and spiritually."
Though the guru's disapproval might have been predicted, it seems to have shocked many people in psychedelic cirles, and may even, according to Cohen, "augur the eventual destruction of the psychedelic myth."
Cohen himself is one of the first to jump off the bandwagon. Baba's assertions, he says, "certainly corroborate my own conclusions about the after-effects of LSD."
In a moving passage that obviously reflects much subconscious-searching on Cohen's part, he writes of the hypocrisy generated by psychedelic mysticism, of "love" turning into annoyance with trifles, of the temptatoin to conclude that the "games" of ordinary life are not worth playing.
As an ex-missionary, Cohen does not condemn LSD absolutely. But he declares "one can validly suspect the principle of any spiritual movement which does not encourage its members to work within society to change the social environment for the better.