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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
by Don Lattin
Book Reviews
Reviewed by Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D., 5/5/2010

When I first saw The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin, I thought, “OH, NO! Not another reshash of old hash. Give us a break!” The “club” or course, was not an actual social organization, but Lattin’s metaphor for how his four main characters interwove their lives.

However, I was greatly surprised, informed, and entertained by Club. Lattin is a lively, skilled story-teller and adds details, especially interpersonal ones, that have been missing so far as I know. His four members of the club are Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Andrew Weil, and Huston Smith. While Smith was not so active in the club as the other three, thanks to his international renown, his Cleansing the Doors of Perception may turn out to be the most influential psychedelic book in religion. Including Smith may show Lattin’s interest as a former religion writer, too.

This quartet, according to Lattin, “did nothing less than inspire a generation of Americans to redefine the nature of reality” (p. 214) and their historical importance “is not so much any particular vision, but the very process of envisioning” (p. 215).

Lattin is clear that he “recreates” his numerous dialogues, and in the front matter says when possible he checked his reconstructions with at least one person who took part in the various conversations.

I do strongly recommend The Harvard Psychedelic Club as a window into personality sketches of four significant people of the times, their interactions, and their continuing influence into this century.

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