The Science of the Psychedelic Renaissance

1960s: Days of Rage

Three new books suggest that psychedelic drugs did not necessarily have the power to rewrite society, but, instead, brought on revelations concerning earthly themes.

“In 1960, Allen Ginsberg wrote a letter to Timothy Leary, then a professor at Harvard. Leary had invited the poet to Cambridge to participate in his studies of the newly synthesized chemical psilocybin. Ginsberg responded with enthusiasm, then listed his qualifications: LSD in 1959, as a subject in a research study at Stanford University; ayahuasca on a trip to South America the following year; nitrous oxide; ether; mescaline; marijuana; datura; opiates. Part II of ‘Howl,’ he added, was ‘Peyote writing.’ His motivation in all this, he explained, was to recover a lost feeling, a ‘series of mystical experiences—connected with reading Blake’ that he had gone through when he was younger. Leary’s life has been covered extensively, not least in his own memoirs. Trained as a…

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