Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Did you know this about America's favorite integrative health doc, Andrew Weil?

Did you know that the Santa Claus-bearded, Andrew Weil, was an undergrad in biology and ethnobotany of medicinal plants at Harvard when Timothy Leary was tripping with his psych. grad. students...ahem...I mean, when Leary was conducting psychological experiments in the Harvard Psilocybin Project??

Well, he was.

In fact,Weil volunteered to be a subject in Leary and Richard Alpert's studies. Leary declined since Harvard had just put the hammer down on undergrad participation, but suggested that Weil do his own experiments.  After struggling to find a drug source,Weil decided to contact Aldous Huxley. Weil had read Huxley's Doors of Perception in high school and thought the elder statesman of altered states, might know where to get some stuff.  Huxley suggested Delta Chemicals; the company kindly provided Weil and fellow undergrad., Ronnie Winston, with a stash of mescaline. Weil and Winston conducted thirty experiments on themselves and other undergrads.

Weil wrote several articles in the Harvard Crimson on the Leary/Alpert experiments. In The Harvard Psychedelic Club, Don Lattin  argues that Weil, jealous that his friend Ronnie Winston had been invited into Leary/Alpert psychedelic circle, cast doubt over the Leary Alpert work, accusing them of cultivating a "cult of chemical mystics" in an article in the Harvard Crimson. Later in a 1963 Look magazine article, Weil went so far as to cast homophobic aspirations on Leary and Alpert (he wasn't entirely off-base; Alpert was bi-sexual in this period).

Anyway, Weil dove deep into his own experimentation. Even while getting his MD at Harvard, he remained fascinated by altered states. He thought drugs (and later non-illicit practices and substances, such as "ecstatic mango eating")  might be the key to opening up a new level of consciousness, a consciousness that would bring on the revolution.

Weil had been turned on, but unlike Leary, he decided to keep one foot in the counterculture and one foot in respectable culture. He doesn't openly admit it anymore, but at one point, Weil recommended tripping as a remedy for allergies and cancer.  (To be continued...)

No comments: