The Harvard Psilocybin Project was a series of experiments in psychology conducted by Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert. The founding board of the project consisted of Leary, Aldous Huxley, David McClelland (Leary's and Alpert's superior at Harvard University),Frank Barron, Ralph Metzner, and two graduate students who were working on a project with mescaline.
The experiments began some time in 1960 and lasted until March 1962, when other professors in the Harvard Center for Research in Personality raised concerns about the legitimacy and safety of the experiments in an internal meeting.Leary and Alpert's experiments were part of their personal discovery and advocacy of psychedelics. As such, their use of psilocybin and other psychedelics ranged from the academically sound and open Concord Prison Experiment, in which inmates were given psilocybin in an effort to reduce recidivism, to frequent personal use.
The Marsh Chapel Experiment, an example of the Project's activities, was run by a Harvard Divinity School graduate student under Leary's supervision. Boston area graduate divinity students were administered psilocybin as a part of a study designed to determine if the drug could facilitate the experience of profound religious states, and all of the ten divinity students reported such experiences.
Huston Smith's last work, Cleansing the Doors of Perception, describes the Harvard «Psilocybin Project in which he participated in the early 1960s as a serious, conscientious, mature attempt to raise awareness of entheogenic substances. Of the members of the subgroup in which Smith took part, Leary is not listed.
In 1960, Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert ordered psilocybin from Swiss-based company Sandoz with the intent to test if different administration modes lead to different experiences. To a greater extent, they believed that psilocybin could be the solution for the emotional problems of the Western man.
The first test group was composed of 38 people of various backgrounds. Soothing environments were chosen to conduct the experiments. Each subject controlled its own intake dosage, and the lead researchers Leary and Alpert also ingested the substance. This study led to the conclusions that, while 75% of the subjects in general described their trip as pleasant, 69% were considered to have reached a «marked broadening of awareness». 167 subjects in total participated to the 1960 study. At the end of the study, 95% of the subjects declared that the psilocybin experience had «changed their lives for the better».
In 1961, Leary decided to orient the study towards psilocybin and the rehabilitation of inmates. It resulted in the inmates being able to visualize themselves in a «cops-and-robbers game».
Other professors were concerned with Leary and Alpert's abuse of power over students. They pressured graduate students to participate in their research who they taught in a class required for the students' degrees. Additionally, Leary and Alpert gave psychedelics to undergraduate students despite the university only allowing graduate students to participate (a deal was passed with the administration to avoid this in 1961). The legitimacy of their research was questioned because Leary and Alpert took psychedelics with the students during the experiments, an accusation to which Leary replied that the researchers had to be in the same state of mind as the subject to understand his experience in the moment it happens. In 1961, two Harvard students ended up in the mental hospital after consuming psilocybin, and the Harvard administration started to dislike the project.
While Leary and Alpert are described as ridiculing the rules that were set by the school, they also believed that nothing should deny someone the right to explore his inner self, or this would mean taking another step towards totalitarianism.
Also, the selection of research participants was not random sampling. These concerns were then printed in The Harvard Crimson (edition of 20 February 1962). Leary and Alpert immediately replied to the Crimson to rectify its doomy tone, but a few days later, Dana L. Farnsworth, director of Harvard University Health Services, also wrote to the Crimson to expose the risks related to the consumption of mescaline. A dispute rose on campus, which led the Harvard Center for Research in Personality to organize a meeting on 14 March 1962 to solve the issue.
The meeting turned into a trial against Leary and Alpert, and was« reported in the Crimson by a journalist who discreetly assisted to the meeting. This article accelerated the crisis. Local newspapers followed and published about the drug scandal on university grounds. A member of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health stated the experiments led by Leary and Alpert should be conducted by a -"«sober»"- researcher, followed by the state food and drug administration which declared its intention to open an investigation on the psilocybin experiments.
In April, the state authorities finally decided to authorize the psilocybin experiments under the conditions that a (sober) physician is present during the experiments. When an advisory committee demanded Alpert that he gives away his psilocybin to legal authorities for safe-keeping, he insisted on keeping some for his personal use, which outraged the committee that never met again afterwards. It is believed that Leary and Alpert used Harvard stationary to order more psilocybin from Sandoz to stock up before leaving for their Zihuatanejo Project. Maybe smeared, Alpert's reputation on campus quickly became tainted.
On 27 May 1963, Alpert was fired for distributing psilocybin to an undergraduate student.
Another concern were the private psilocybin parties that took place and gathered professors and students,or at least the cocktail party appearances of some «sessions«.
At the time only Mescaline and the Peyote cactus were illegal. It would be five years until LSD and psilocybin were made illegal. Both Leary and Alpert had been rising academic stars until their battles with Harvard and their advocacy of the use of psychedelics made them major figures in the nascent counterculture.
Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer known for advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions.
Psychedelics are a class of drug whose primary action is to trigger psychedelic experiences via serotonin receptor agonism, causing thought and visual/auditory changes, and altered state of consciousness. Major psychedelic drugs include mescaline, LSD, psilocybin and DMT. Studies show that psychedelics are physiologically safe and do not lead to addiction. Studies conducted using psilocybin in a psychotheraputic setting reveal that psychedelic drugs may assist with treating depression and alcohol addiction, possibly also nicotine addiction.
Ram Dass, also known as Baba Ram Dass, was an American spiritual teacher, academic and clinical psychologist, and author of many books, including the seminal 1971 book Be Here Now. He was known for his personal and professional associations with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the early 1960s, for his travels to India and his relationship with Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, and for founding the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. He continued to teach, via his website; produced a podcast, with support from 1440 Multiversity; and pursued mobile app development through the Be Here Now network and the Love, Serve, Remember Foundation.
Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving psychedelic drugs, oftentimes utilizing serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin, DMT, MDMA, mescaline, and 2C-B. In psychedelic therapy, in contrast to conventional psychiatric medication taken by the patient regularly or as-needed, patients generally remain in an extended psychotherapy session during the acute psychedelic activity with additional sessions both before and after in order to help integrate experiences with the drug.
Alfred Matthew Hubbard was an early proponent for the drug LSD during the 1950s. He is reputed to have been the "Johnny Appleseed of LSD" and the first person to emphasize LSD's potential as a visionary or transcendental drug.
The psychedelic drug lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was first synthesized on November 16, 1938 by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz laboratories in Basel, Switzerland. It was not until five years later on April 19, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were found.
A psychedelic experience is a temporary altered state of consciousness induced by the consumption of psychedelic drugs. For example, the term acid trip refers to psychedelic experiences brought on by the use of LSD.
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) is a membership-based 501(c)(3) organization working to raise awareness and understanding of psychedelic substances. MAPS was founded in 1986 by Rick Doblin, and is now based in Santa Cruz, California.
The Marsh Chapel Experiment, also called the "Good Friday Experiment", was a 1962 experiment conducted on Good Friday at Boston University's Marsh Chapel. Walter N. Pahnke, a graduate student in theology at Harvard Divinity School, designed the experiment under the supervision of Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and the Harvard Psilocybin Project. Pahnke's experiment investigated whether psilocybin would act as a reliable entheogen in religiously predisposed subjects.
The Concord Prison Experiment was designed to evaluate whether the experiences produced by the psychoactive drug psilocybin, derived from psilocybin mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy, could inspire prisoners to leave their antisocial lifestyles behind once they were released. How well it worked was to be judged by comparing the recidivism rate of subjects who received psilocybin with the average for other Concord inmates.
Michael Hollingshead was a British researcher in psychedelic drugs and hallucinogens including psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide, among others, at Harvard University in the mid-twentieth century. He was the father of comedian Vanessa Hollingshead.
High Priest is a book by Timothy Leary. It was originally published in 1968 by New American Library, and was reprinted in 1995 by Ronin Publishing.
Walter Norman Pahnke was a minister, physician, and psychiatrist most famous for the "Good Friday Experiment", also referred to as the Marsh Chapel Experiment or the "Miracle of Marsh Chapel".
League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD) was a spiritual organization inspired by the works of Timothy Leary, and strove for legal use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) for the purpose of meditation, insight, and spiritual understanding. It was in existence during the mid-to-late 1960s, and eventually closed by Leary. The New York Center for the League of Spiritual Discovery, in existence for around a year, was co-founded by Timothy Leary and Nina Graboi in 1966. The center was the first LSD-based meditation center in Manhattan.
The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a book about using psychedelic drugs that was coauthored by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, all of whom had previously taken part in research investigating the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin and mescaline in addition to the ability of these substances to sometimes induce religious and mystical states of consciousness. Started as early as 1962 as part of the Zihuatanejo Project in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the book was finally published in August 1964.
The Leary–Lettvin debate was a May 3, 1967 debate between Dr. Jerome Lettvin, a medical doctor and professor at MIT, and Dr. Timothy Leary, a licensed psychologist, about the merits and dangers of the hallucinogenic drug LSD. It took place in the Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Harris Isbell was an American pharmacologist and the director of research for the NIMH Addiction Research Center at the Public Health Service Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky from 1945 to 1963. He did extensive research on the physical and psychological effects of various drugs on humans. Early work investigated aspects of physical dependence with opiates and barbiturates, while later work investigated psychedelic drugs, including LSD. The research was extensively reported in academic journals such as the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Psychopharmacologia, and the AMA Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry.
Philosophy of psychedelics is the philosophical investigation of the psychedelic experience. While psychedelic, entheogenic or hallucinogenic substances have been used by many traditional cultures throughout history mostly for religious purposes, recorded philosophical speculation and analysis of these substances, their phenomenological effects and the relevance of these altered states of consciousness to philosophical questions is a relatively late phenomenon in the history of philosophy. Traditional cultures who use psychedelic substances such as the Amazonian and Indigenous Mexican peoples hold that ingesting medicinal plants such as Ayahuasca and Peyote allows one to commune with the beings of the spirit world.
Nina Graboi was a Holocaust survivor, artist, writer, spiritual seeker, philosopher, and influential figure in the sixties psychedelic movement. After fleeing the Nazis in Europe and spending three months in a detention camp in North Africa, she and her husband came to America as refugees. As a close friend and colleague of Timothy Leary's and Richard Alpert's, she was co-founder and director of the League for Spiritual Discovery's New York Center during the psychedelic era. The center was the first LSD-based meditation center in Manhattan. She also worked closely with Jean Houston, Abraham Maslow, Stanley Krippner, and Alan Watts.
Psilocybin therapy describes the controversial use of psilocybin to treat anxiety and depression. Psilocybin is the active substance found in "magic" mushrooms. Due to the absence of medical evidence for efficacy and safety, and legal concerns, psilocybin therapy is not used in conventional medical practice.