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

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

4.3 12
by Don Lattin
     
 

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“[Don Lattin] has 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

It is impossible to overstate the cultural significance of the four men described in Don Lattin

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Overview

“[Don Lattin] has 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

It is impossible to overstate the cultural significance of the four men described in Don Lattin’s The Harvard Psychedelic Club. Huston Smith, tirelessly working to promote cross-cultural religious and spiritual tolerance. Richard Alpert, a.k.a. Ram Dass, inspiring generations with his mantra, “be here now.” Andrew Weil, undisputed leader of the holistic medicine revolution. And, of course, Timothy Leary, the charismatic, rebellious counter-culture icon and LSD guru. Journalist Don Lattin provides the funny, moving inside story of the “Cambridge Quartet,” who crossed paths with the infamous Harvard Psilocybin Project in the early 60’s, and went on to pioneer the Mind/Body/Spirit movement that would popularize yoga, vegetarianism, and Eastern mysticism in the Western world.

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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
In this rollicking if lightweight group biography, Mr. Lattin does a lovely, gently humorous job of setting this scene and bringing these men together…This slim book has more than its share of faults… I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't enjoy just about every page of The Harvard Psychedelic Club. This groovy story unfurls—chronicling the lives of men who were brilliant but damaged, soulful but vengeful, zonked-out but optimistic and wry—like a ready-made treatment for a sprawling, elegiac and crisply comic movie, let's say Robert Altman by way of Wes Anderson.
—The New York Times
Mary Jo Murphy
Anyone expecting The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test has come to the wrong book but might want to stick around anyway. Lattin lacks the Wolfean verbal razzle-dazzle, but Tom Wolfe was "off the bus," in that he apparently didn't partake, and he needed all his writer's tricks to conjure an extra-reality he hadn't experienced. Lattin mostly skips the Day-Glo word pictures, but then, as he says in the afterword, he has been there, most definitely done that. If he can't paint a scene—and what a scene—the way Wolfe can, he does manage to make sense of a complicated movement so often reduced to its parody-ready costumes, haircuts and groovy lingo. And he does it with authority and an evenhanded understanding of the good, the bad and the crazy of it.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
It’s hard for folks who didn’t live through the 1960s to imagine what it was like to live in a drug- and sex-soaked culture, one where traditional values were drowned in a rush of hedonism and hippiedom. Names like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass bring back all the memories and all the conflicts. In this beautifully constructed study, Lattin (Jesus Freaks) brings together four of the most memorable figures from that period. Each comes across as a flawed genius and irrepressible fanatic. The author says of Leary that he “activate[d] conservative anxiety in America,” but this could easily describe any of the players in this grim and gritty story. Laying out their stories side by side in roughly chronological form, the author traces the lives of each of the players, exposing a kind of dysfunctional relationship among them that is not part of our corporate memory. This is a fast-moving, dispassionate recounting of a seminal period in our history, and all in all, a wonderful book. (Jan.)
Booklist
A terrific social history of a fascinating historical period . . . laugh-aloud passages make this an entertaining read.
Mirabai Bush
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.
Dennis McNally
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.
Eric Weiner
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.
Dan Millman
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.
The Daily Californian
“Lattin… deftly captures the intoxicated spirit of the 1960s zeitgeist… [The Harvard Psychedelic Club is] a fresh, expertly written text that serves to remind Leary’s generation of their past while providing a new generation with some context of where today’s pervasive drug culture came from.”
East Bay Express
“The Harvard Psychedelic Club, takes a lucid look at four founding fathers of a movementthat changed the world.”
San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times
“Lattin succeeds where less accomplished chroniclers of this period have failed.”
Shelf Awareness
“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.”
Cleveland Plain-Dealer
“Outstanding book.”
The New York Times Book Review
“[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.”
New York Post
“[T]horoughly engaging… Packing his book with strange, wonderful scenes, Lattin argues that America would never be the same because of an unlikely quartet that did time — and drugs — at Harvard in the early 1960s.”
PsychologyToday.com
“Lattin’s new book The Harvard Psychedelic Club takes a lucid look at four founding fathers of a movement that changed America and thus the world.”
Religion News Service
“Lattin artfully weaves [the stories] together,creating a stronger, more compelling narrative that enlightens as much as it informs. ...Mind-blowing.”
The Onion
“...[T]hese stories provide the psychedelic movement with context and continued relevance-important elements for a generation of readers trained to laugh at stock hippie characters and stoner epiphanies.”
BookReporter.com
“Lattin satisfyingly places the parallel and interconnected lives of these four titans along a timeline, drawing in a cast of minor characters as fascinating as its stars.”
San Mateo County Times
“In ‘The Harvard Psychedelic Club’ Lattin adds depth, breadth and surprises to the story. Searchers, thinkers, philosophers and occasional wackos fill the pages of this entertaining book with their quests and questionable behavior. The book is a fast, often delightful read… This is a good one.”
Boston Globe
“[A] colorful tale.”
Chicago Sun-Times
“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.”
The Los Angeles Times
“Don Lattin tells the story with panache…[he is] fascinated by these men, but he’s also a fierce judge of their trespasses and their lapses from authenticity. (So we’re glad to have him tell the story.)”
HistoryWire.Com
“Informative and entertaining”
ReadtheSpirit.com
“Don Lattin, one of America’s most-respected religion newswriters in recent years, has been devoting his considerable skills to unearthing and fully reporting some of these milestone stories. This Harvard book is his latest revelation.”
The Huffington Post
“Don Lattin’s recent Harvard Pychedelic Club is a wryly tumultuous history… [that] focuses sharply on the group that began in Cambridge.”
Portland Oregonian
“The Harvard Psychedelic Club sets the record straight: Four extraordinary personalities crossed paths, and the result was electrifying.”
Northern Dutchess News
“Lattin weaves the biographies of these brilliant men into a compelling tale of possibilities and disappointments, angels and demons, triumph and tragedy… a page-turner that can stand proudly alongside its fictional counterparts.”
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles
“A fast, funny, and savvy book that dishes about some of the most celebrated figures in the American counterculture.”
Miami Herald
“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.”
Washington City Paper
“Lattin’s snappy conversational prose and poignant insights into his subjects’ often-tortured personal lives make his book worth the trip.”
The Edge
“...raucous, witty and licentious... [Lattin] has created a post-Kerouac road scholar classic.”
Booklist (starred review)
A terrific social history of a fascinating historical period . . . laugh-aloud passages make this an entertaining read.
San Francisco Chronicle 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061966231
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/05/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
328,519
File size:
2 MB

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What People are saying about this

Eric Weiner
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.
Dennis McNally
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.
Mirabai Bush
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.
Dan Millman
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.

Read More

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