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The Books About LSD


People are more terrified of LSD than of anything else in the world This terror is a phenomenon which social scientists would do well to study. Meanwhile, we who would be told about LSD must rely on books written by terrified people. The most apolitical and therefore potent threat waved before would-be acidheads is chromosome breakage. An experiment run a long time ago in a leaky warehouse in Buffalo found that one rat in ten got broken chromosomes after swimming in LSD, but it was later discovered that the microscopes used in the experiment were warped. Nonetheless, the authorities had all the ammunition needed. Their rumors drowned out the whispers of those who knew like an irresistible force running over a paper bag. They are still around, though all those millions of broken choromsomes have as yet failed to produce one LSD baby.

The truth is about to emerge. Dr. Andrew T. Weil '64, whom we trust because he went to Harvard Medical School and is one of the few physicians in the country doing research on marijuana, recently spoke on drugs at Harvard and told his audience that three studies showing that LSD causes no chromosome damage will not be coming out in current medical journals. (He further informed the audience that a University of Washington study comparing the effects of marijuana and alcohol on driving and showing that stoned drivers were indistinguishable from sober drivers was refused publication by the Journal of the American Medical Association.)

A second threat is that individuals undergo extensive "personality changes" after taking LSD--they drop out. Undoubtedly some people who drop out have taken LSD, but the very logical sequences the authorities use in determining scales of value and the causes of events preclude saying such major decisions about what to do with one's life came from any one factor, especially an experience with such low remember-ability as an LSD trip. One of the main complaints by people who have taken LSD and disliked it is that none of the "revelations" from the trip can be remembered subsequently. What can be remembered is "worthless." Many people who take LSD more than once keep right on doing what they were doing. Can you tell whether your friends are acidheads? You can't.

These and other controversies are discussed with varying degrees of thoroughness in Timothy Leary's The Political of Ecstasy (G. P. Putnam's Sons Publishers, 372 pp.), a mishmash of old speeches and papers that does an much harm by its psychedelic raving as good by pointing up some little-known facts about the drug. Leary's other book, High Priest (World Publishing Co., 354 pp), its jacket sporting a photo of Leary looking like Alexander the Great, is a boring account of the master's trips. Has no information.

Other books:

LSD: The Consciousness-Expanding Drug, edited by David Solomon (G. P. Putnam's-Berkeley Medallion Edition, paperback, 1967, 248 pp.). This collection of essays and articles pro and con has a slim amount of factual information, and some interesting speculations about LSD. Included are reports of LSD experiments with terminal cancer patients, alcoholics, and the "mentally ill," as well as articles by Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, William Burroughs, Leary, and other journalists of psychedelia.

Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, by R. E. L. Masters and Jean Houston (Delta paperback by Dell, 326 pp.). This over-long account of experiments with LSD rests on the dubious premise that trips can be translated into verbal terms. The results are sometimes ludicrous. Does it help us to know that 88.01 per cent of subjects describe their experience as "religious"?

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, edited and announced by Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner. Written as a manual for trippers, this adaptation of the teachings of Tibetan mystics is fun to read but shouldn't be taken too seriously. The guide outlines the stages of an acid trip and tells you how to react at each point. You'd probably be better off finding your own way.

Not LSD, but LSD culture, is treated in movies like The Trip, with Peter Fonda, or Wild in the Streets, in which everyone over thirty is deported to campus and given LSD. The drug gets a boost from Skiddoo, in which Jackie Gleason goes out into the world to spread love after inadvertantly licking LSD off something handed him by a draft card burner.

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