A Return Trip to Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic, Day-Glo Mexico

May 06, 2022 · 159 comments
Bill (FL)
I started graduate school in psychology at Harvard 2 years after Tim Leary was fired, though a few of his acolytes were still aroun and drawing curious stares and speculation on campus: Were they burned out? Could they complete their dissertations and pass their oral exams? Leary and LSD did not appeal to me because I knew some people with serious reality breaks due to abuse of various substances; the idea of frying my one and only brain was off-putting. I and many of my fellow grad students did use marijuana in moderation, but I did not try LSD until I was considering post-doctoral research on the possible benefits of LSD. I found the acid experience a bit scary and disorienting, and after a few tries I gave up using or studying mind-altering drugs. Years later I visited Zihuataneho during a hurricane and found the town quite enchanting; the hurricane was mind-bending even without chemical enhancement. At the time I did not know of the town’s linkage to Leary or I would have checked it out. For a couple of years after using LSD I had the occasional brief unbidden flashback, nothing scary or disorienting, and even today I can call up one or two LSD experiences that were particularly memorable because of their unusual visual components, not my emotional or psychological responses. As I near my 81st birthday I have no urge or desire to take LSD again, nor ‘shrooms or other psychedelic substances; nowadays, as they used to say, I am content to get high on life.
Robert Clawson (Massachusetts)
Hello, Gunther, Those were the days, my friend. Gaz
Tom (Miami)
"it still feels like the anti-Tulum. The laid-back beach city does not have the gloss and overdevelopment of that Yucatán Peninsula town." For the record, when I visited Tulum in the early 80's on a break from my Peace Corps service in Guatemala, it was still a totally "undiscovered" backwater. As the saying goes, you can never step in the same river twice.
Patsy (Arizona)
I took blotter acid once. The summer of 1969 in the town of Woodstock, a few weeks before the concert. It was a gorgeous day and I sat by the creek in town with lots of young people. I did not move the whole day. The water was flowing with rainbow colors, the trees above were swirling. The sky filled with geometric patterns. It was peaceful, I felt safe but I did know I probably took too much. Then they started cutting LSD with speed and that was it for me.
Scratching (US)
LSD...is a tool. A sacramental one. While its use absolutely carries risks for some...I'd guess that...millions of humans alive on Earth today would state, without equivocation, that it was a valuable tool that enabled them to access self-knowledge/information that had positive, lasting, life-affirming results. Or...an incredibly fun, interesting day in nature. Or. in some instances, a negative trip. Perhaps much like other substances, but...not quite.
DBF (Metro Atlanta)
@Scratching Aside from the introspective and spiritual aspects, I'm not sure that the entertainment value of a good LSD trip can be equaled by anything else. Unbelievable bang for the buck.
Ed (Raleigh)
Leary was all ego. But LSD, for the few who tripped on pure, non-commercial acid, could be the key to a doorway into an invisible realm of the mind. It was for me. The drug was a powerful, long-lasting medium (approaching 24 hours) that transported the fortunate to sensations, epiphanies and pleasures for which language was inadequate to describe. Swimming in the ocean felt astonishingly foreign and ridiculously pleasurable, viscous and, somehow familiar. Playing basketball was difficult; I was unable to grab rebounds of missed shots, always ascending toward the ball a second or two after someone else corralled it and was gone, heading for the opposite hoop. Eating and sleeping were neither sought nor missed. Feeling my muscles tense and relax while lifting weights was a sensation closer to communication than exercise...it felt as if I was having a conversation with my body. When I hallucinated, I never didn't realize what I saw and felt wasn't real, but as Leary understood, set and setting was awfully important. I was able to drive a car, but I drove very, very slowly, so that was something I wouldn't do...but could! I would be violating the Times' prohibitions on what it deemed appropriate to write with quite a few other descriptions, but 50 years later, LSD provided some of the best vacations I've ever had.
Chase (Darien, CT)
What's the drum circle situation down in Zihuatanejo? I like the thought of being surrounded by a good rhythm and friendly chachalacas, cuckoos, and baby turtles when I peak. Can you hire performers such as tragafuegos?
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Chase Drum circles and traga-fuegos from other parts of Mexico can certainly be found wherever there are tourists with money, including here in Zihuatanejo, but a much better experience is to hire what we call a Trio, though many times they are only a duo, to sing you some boleros such as those written by a musician from the region named Ezequiel "Cheque" Cisneros Cárdenas. Grab a hammock or chaise lounge on the beach, and have them play some tunes for you with Zihuatanejo's bay as background. Here's one of my favorites called "Zihuatanejo": https://youtu.be/sle_EY2jZFc
delancey (Philadelphia)
Read the article. Then scanned the first sentence again. Very clever. Fun. Thx.
Tina Trent (Florida)
You forgot to mention that Leary's flight to Mexico was an effort to avoid legal investigation of child exploitation and sexual abuse. That seems like a really big thing to leave out.
Rob (SLC Utah)
Ken (Charlotte)
...its like riding a bike, it all comes back. Better wear a helmet.
marks (millburn)
Day-Glo is Kesey not Leary. But what would one expect from a writer that starts a piece by quoting a Beatles song? Even worse, a Beatles song that has nothing to do with LSD. This is SO New York Times-ish!
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@marks You appear confused. When Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds was released, at the time a large percentage of listeners assumed it had to do with psychedelics, not the backstory that later came out. The association continues in spite of the actual backstory. But the point is the lyrics about drifting past the high flowers has more to do with the gardens at the Catalina, a double entendre that you might have actually grasped were you familiar with the setting in the article. Un saludo desde Zihuatanejo.
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
You have erroneously and irresponsibly made statements about psychedelic drugs "causing psychosis" or "lasting mental problems." Back then, it was SUSPECTED that this was the case, and everything the CIA did worked with the blanket assumption that ALL psychedelic experiences were merely temporary psychoses. Sadly, that ugly mythology continues to this day. In all these decades, the worst that has ever happened to anyone from using psychedelics is a few hours of fear and discomfort. I urge you to do your research more responsibly, learn the truth, and issue a retraction. the NYT is a highly respected information source, and these kinds of fearmongering statements can only lead to harm, and yet another setback in the necessary legalization of these therapeutic AND entheogenic substances. There could not be a more ideal time for MORE people to utilize these substances. Our world, and our country are in deep, deep trouble and enhanced awareness is desperately needed. An experience is not a psychosis, just because some CIA operative says so. LSD does not cause "lasting mental problems" just because some reporter or blogger says so. PLEASE get it right - it's IMPORTANT. Thank you
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@goldenskyhook Please read more carefully. The author wrote: "The drugs could induce psychosis, especially in people who underwent clinical tests strapped to metal beds under harsh lights." Absolutely nothing false there at all. I watched numerous people become psychotic from taking psychedelics and they weren't strapped to any beds under bright lights as the reference cited alludes to. And no, it wasn't temporary. It isn't fearmongering, it's honesty. Most people shouldn't touch any mind-altering substance, especially psychoactive ones such as hallucinogens. While I agree they should be legal, I don't encourage anyone to try them. That's a personal choice based on informing oneself and KNOWING oneself. The author has not misinformed anyone, but I believe you have reacted over-defensively in an inappropriate proportion to the context of the comments you cite. Un saludo.
Elizabeth (Washington)
@goldenskyhook You're incorrect. My first "nanny" job was feeding, showering and dressing a thirty year-old woman whose life was forever altered by an LSD-spiked party drink. She suffered severe psychosis as a result, and it was a great tragedy for her family. I'm an open minded, self-described hippie who never ventured into psychedelics...the "flashback" of caring for her permanently quelled my curiosity
ck (chicago)
Timothy Leary was always as corny as designer "patched" jeans. As a native of LA who was a 17 year old "flower child" in 1967 I can tell you that we found him and his coterie of older, depressive, failed academics an unwelcome intrusion. He was what we were, naively certainly, hoping to avoid by partying in the park and at the beach and sharing what we had. Suddenly it was all about globe trotting, decadent trash holing up in exclusive secluded locales and dropping acid while the servants cleaned up and the champagne flowed. He was about as counter-culture as Studio 54. .
Scratching (US)
@ck Uh...It's fairly easy, in retrospect, to critique a movement that was inventing itself/evolving, in real time, on hallucinogens! While it's pretty clear that Leary was an imperfect person, who may have fallen prey to some of the trappings that he was striving to reject/leave behind, he was certainly an original, swimming in uncharted waters, who helped ignite a movement that has led to what many would consider an important advance in human consciousness, potential, personal freedom. For some. Counter-culture is a label that we use to try to neatly explain/box things that may defy such tidy classification. He was a journeyman, as much as anything.
ck (chicago)
@Scratching Not arguing with your critique of my comment. I'd only add that there is no such thing as "advancement" of human consciousness. Dust off the old, yellowed Bhagavad Gita? Peace and Love.
scratchy (US)
@ck Uh...Yes, there was/is.
Discernie (Las Cruces, NM)
Just to chime in - those comments here that support the therapeutic benefits of hallucinogenic drugs and the understanding acquired by their supervised use for first timers - support more research and a more positive outlook that hopefully will allow progress toward a better world community, respectful and tolerant of divisive differences. I have a Ph.D. in clinical psych that left me pretty much disgusted with behavioral modification and traditional modes of therapy early on and I turned to the study of depth psychology and Jung's dream analysis which became a private way for me and my friends. Then in the 70's I found the study of law permitted me to deal with the concept of evil and how we must regard it as a particularly tenacious human mental illness. This application of my psychological interest and abilities was satisfying and fruitful but in a sense depressing because few professionals believed psychopathy was curable. I would return to the outdoors and psilocybin mushrooms to recharge my optimism and benevolent perspective. The idea of awakening conscience and understanding in the psychopathic individuals through the use of psychedelic's must eventually rise to the fore. emphasis "eventually" However, with psychopaths displacing people of conscience around the world willy-nilly eg. the GOP and their likes in other cultures like Putin etc. etc. our human state of embracing evil precludes recovery any time soon. Peace please.
Red O. Greene (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
"Romanticism was not merely an aberration. Not merely the negation of literary classicism. Rather, it was and is a great expansion of man's collective consciousness, potent as LSD, which opened up new modes of feeling and perception, and discovered for us a whole new (additional) world of truth - i.e., the past and the future, the lure of adventure and the unknown, non-European cultures, the primitive, the passionate, the personal, and nature - the natural." E.A., 1966 And my point in offering the above? It is this: Go ahead and argue that for 60 years there has been a worldwide conspiracy by the plunderers of the Earth to prevent the availability of LSD for every man, woman, and child in order for the former to continue their evil ways. For myself, I have tripped a few times, and I maintain that Leary and LSD have contributed virtually nothing to philosophy, psychology, and theology. Leary was the clever clown of Millbrook and it was all about recreation for him and others, including myself. We've never needed LSD, although it was an interesting subject for the pen of Tom Wolfe.
Red O. Greene (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA)
@Red O. Greene: And, I might add, Leary's "recreation" included sex with multiple partners.
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@Red O. Greene I suggest that you need to do a couple (or a couple hundred) more LSD trips, preferably at much higher doses than I'm guessing you had. If you are able to trivialize the experience that much, I submit that you never really even had the experience. It was never meant to be passively experienced. It is a catalyst for transformation on every level, including spiritually.
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@Red O. Greene You say that like it's a BAD thing!
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
Thank you, Nina, for your very original and thought-provoking reporting on a fascinating part of Zihuatanejo's history. While the particular episode of Timothy Leary's experiment gone awry may not be seen by most people as anything more than a visit by a bunch of crazy drugged out hippies (though hippies didn't technically exist yet), it actually had long-lasting positive effects for Zihuatanejo. Word got our among the young hip people of the day who began recommending it to their friends. My mother and her boyfriend visited Zihuatanejo in '69 on the recommendation of a friend of a friend from California who heard about Zihuatanejo from the Timothy Leary crowd. We returned to live in Zihuatanejo for 6 months in '74-'75 when I met and fell in love with the girl who would become my wife 15 years later when I moved to Zihuatanejo for good in '89. The word of mouth from so many of those young hip people from the early 60's drew a lot of people here, many who became permanent residents, some who became teachers, some who became local entrepreneurs, others simply blended into the background. I became a naturalized citizen and an English teacher, later teaching myself to be a webmaster when the internet arrived. While the Timothy Leary crowd may have left a bad impression among locals for not being respectful of local mores and customs, others of us have done better for the community. ¡Saludos y gracias! http://zihuatanejo.net/blog/2018/08/09/the-luckiest-gringo-in-mexico-part-3-4/
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@ZihuaRob It could be argued that Leary's entire spiritual purpose was to "not be respectful of local mores and customs." He did an excellent job of it, too!
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@goldenskyhook Yes, I'm just an old hippie-freak in disguise without my long hair, love beads, granny glasses, moccasin boots with lots of fringe, and Woodstock t-shirt, though I still wear bandannas on occasion, and back in the late 60's after I'd tried acid, I thought Timothy Leary and that whole group of people were Lost In Space, cliquish, out of touch, and hurting the "movement" of expanding consciousness. Psychedelics are not to be taken lightly but with respect. I discovered I could easily control the effects and my response to them, but I also observed that most folks apparently couldn't or they needed help to get through their trip without freaking out. They had difficulty separating fantasy from reality. IMHO, most folks shouldn't even drink alcohol, but that's just my lay opinion. But that really isn't the purpose of the article. It's simply a photograph of a place in time. A place that continues to inspire artists and seekers of spiritual experiences. It's also a wonderful place to relax and be far from what seems to be an ever-increasingly chaotic world gone mad. Warm saludos from Zihuatanejo.
Dana (Before the Mast)
Emily Dickinson did not take LSD to write a poem that describes the experience so well. Much Madness is divinest Sense - To a discerning Eye - Much Sense - the starkest Madness - ’Tis the Majority In this, as all, prevail - Assent - and you are sane - Demur - you’re straightway dangerous - And handled with a Chain -
Ian (Cozumel, Mexico)
Too bad you felt compelled to start this article with some lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. John Lennon set the record straight many, many times that this was not about LSD. Your credibility as a writer and researcher must be questioned as a result. Otherwise, it was an interesting piece. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_in_the_Sky_with_Diamonds
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@Ian It's fair to say that millions of us DID equate that music with our own LSD experiences. Also, Lennon said that ONCE (not many, many times) and he was a well known joker who often spoke tongue-in-cheek. A song can be "about" more than one thing, especially if written by a genius.
Gert (marion, ohio)
I am soon to be a 77 year old retired Vietnam Vet who lived in California during this crazy LSD period. Took a bad dose of LSD and was helped by a friend "come down" from my bad trip. Tried to smoke weed a short time later that immediately induced a LSD "tripping" experience and was again saved by my friend. I haven't smoked pot since then and haven't even had a drop of alcohol for over 20 years. Don't miss any of this and find guys like Bill Maher and Joe Rogan's endorsement of weed as really juvenile. As I look back, I often compare this period of American history when people seemed to have lost all rationality to drugs similar to our current divide in America where people refuse to look at facts and evidence for their beliefs and follow another Timothy Leary con man named Donald Trump and his gang of True Believers. Which period is worse?
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@Gert OMG! Conflating Leary with Trump is simply obscene! Just because you had ONE bad trip, it's no reason to condemn the amazing experiences that many of us had back then. Maybe you just gave up too soon, and you might have had some truly enlightening experiences. Did those "bad trips" do you any real harm?
Scratching (US)
@Gert "I haven't smoked pot since then and haven't even had a drop of alcohol for over 20 years. Don't miss any of this and find guys like Bill Maher and Joe Rogan's endorsement of weed as really juvenile." Personal freedom, very good. But...why criticize others who are simply expressing their opinions, stating what works for them personally? Rather than having lost all "rationality to drugs", many believe that it is...high time to stop grouping all substances together as being..."drugs", or bad, and to investigate the potential positive effects many substances may have for different people. We...aren't you. What works for you, is your business, and...that's all good for you. I dread the thought of living in a world that had not been exposed to the drug experimentation's that occurred during this period. They have spurned advances in consciousness/culture/human advancement that have greatly improved the general human condition on the planet, and have allowed humans to essentially jump ahead, achieve advances that would have taken decades to have been realized, if at all. Granted, not without casualties, and negative side effects. Equating Leary with anything to do with trump...is a lose. Leary, with all of his faults, was an anti-trump type of individual.
as I've aged, I've long moved away from the likes of pot and hash and never tried LSD. Sounded a bit too harsh for me, and I have matured into quite the control freak. LSD and I would not play well together.
goldenskyhook (Madison, WI)
@BC I actually felt far more in control on LSD than I ever did on cannabis. Cannabis made me sick and psychotic, while LSD awakened me on countless levels. They simply do not compare to each other in terms of "harshness." Acid is not like pot only stronger. It's a completely different dive into your truer mind.
Tina Trent (Florida)
@goldenskyhook Truer mind? That sort of nonsense speaks for itself. More than once, I drove the victims of Leary and company to the local mental institution north of New College, the college where they conducted their fake research after being driven from more credible places. And the several credible scientists there had no use for them either. My memory of Leary was an addled, unhinged, elderly, nonsense-spewing druggie screaming pejoratives in my face because I had the countercultural nerve to protest what he did at Millbrook House, and to protest taxpayers like me subsidizing his pricey "speeches." He was not a scientist, visionary, or guru. He was a user and abuser, if I may borrow a quote from Strangers With Candy. His original peers from Harvard knew it too. This Times whitewash is either ignorant or pernicious.
Rob (SLC Utah)
@Tina Trent That may be true. Thanks for the insight. But Tina, the use of "Soma" is universally cross-cultural and historical. Reality is infinitely vast and mysterious. What works for you may be quite different than what others find helpful. Mental illness was treated by inducing insulin shock in patients as recently as a few decades ago. Science is always still evolving.
Richard Granger (Hanover, NH)
Ok: Leary occupied Zihuatanejo in 1962-63. Stephen King published "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" in 1982: the "redemption" of the title takes place in Zihuatenejo, which Andy entreats "Red" to memorize. The storyline takes place from the late 1940s through the late 1960s. By the time (mid 60's) that Andy plots his escape destination, has the well-read director of the prison library heard of Timothy Leary? Seems pretty likely -- and for sure, Stephen King had. Now forgotten? As of this writing, neither the wikipedia page for "The Shawshank Redemption" nor for "Zihuatenejo" bear any mention of Timothy Leary whatsoever. I have saved these wikipedia PDFs from today, since I'm sure these pages will soon change ....
foodalchemist (purgatory)
Timothy Leary devolved, the whole East Coast scene compared to the West Coast ala Kesey. The Merry Pranksters did not care for the mansion in Milbrook as detailed in a movie chronicling the cross country trip in the bus Furthur. Anyone who's really enjoyed tripping balls in nature understands. Oh, and a certain rock band whose name comes from the Book of the Dead . . . Kesey and the acid trips. Oh and if you haven't read 'Sometimes a Great Notion' many deem it among the best American novels from the second half of the 20th century.
Bill V (Austin Tx)
This article was great as I stayed there with a friend in 1988. I had no idea about its history but really enjoyed the laid back vibe of the place. We chose to stay there over the bigger resorts at the time in Ixtapa. We didn’t dose but certainly smoked a lot of pot down there.
Clay (Eugene)
I read Andrew Weil's "The Natural Mind: A New Way of Looking at Drugs and the Higher Consciousness" back in the late '70s. He was right. I am glad that psychedelic drugs are making a comeback as therapy (although they work much better outdoors than in some sterile room). As Neil Young sang, "Change your mind!"
Jayden (Reno, NV)
Wild! Definitely putting that on my list for trips for next year. Last year - some now ex-friend of mine suggested that we go to Buffalo in mid-winter and it was not good. I mean really not good. I've been k-holed too many times, so I'm going to stay away from that and stick to my usual toad, tea, and shrooms.
Brenda (Cohasset, MA)
@Jayden Yeah, I'm sure the residents of Zihuatanejo are thrilled that the NYTimes has decided to ruin their town with an influx of tripping tourists this year.
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Brenda Zihuatanejo has no problem at all revisiting its history. And tripping tourists certainly are welcome as are tourists who drink, smoke, dance on the beach singing or who are health freaks. As long as visitors are respectful towards locals and our culture, they are welcome in Zihuatanejo. We are a very tolerant community. Timothy Leary's major mistake in Zihuatanejo was not respecting the local community by assuming they would tolerate nudity and public intoxication by users of controversial substances, problems that much of modern society continue to have. How shallow of you to assume that such an article would be considered as "ruining" our town. Quite the contrary. Author Nina Burleigh has helped us to preserve a part of our history that had many unexpected benefits for Zihuatanejo. After Timothy Leary left, people kept coming to Zihuatanejo based on the recommendations of IFIF participants and their friends. A small community of mostly Gringa women established themselves at La Ropa Beach and became part of the community. Some became teachers, others offered vacation rentals to other visitors. The Catalina continues to enjoy fame from its history and to receive tourists curious to know more about its past including its well known guests. This article is indeed welcomed by Zihuatanejo's residents including its older families who were here in the early 60's. Un saludo desde Zihuatanejo.
Catman Bill (CT)
I took LSD at the age of 14. It was 1967, the “Summer of Love.” By then Leary was already considered a phony. It was just the thing to do. I only tripped a few times the last time being a bad trip. I drove to a hospital and just sat in the ED and being there calmed me down. I never sought treatment. I was too young to be doing this but I survived. I would consider taking it again under controlled conditions in a therapeutic environment but I probably won’t. I’m not into drugs anymore. I have legal pot in my drawer and it’s been there for 3 years. Go figure.
Kevin (NY)
I was just in Zihua (as the locals call it) earlier this month, not knowing anything about what this story reports. I hadn’t been to Mexico in a good five years and started in Cabo which was overrun with drunk college spring breakers. Decided to go to Zihuatanejo and am very glad I did. Terrific people, great food and weather and the warm Pacific were all welcoming. Not to mention, no college kids. It was a very enjoyable experience and one I hope to repeat soon.
Tom (Riverside PA)
That "pheasant-like bird called the chachalaca" is a grackle.
D.Mc. (Texas)
@Tom No it's not ! A Grackle is a small black bird. The Chacalaca is a large pheasant type bird.
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Tom I recommend searching YouTube for an example of a chachalaca and its unique call. Nothing to do with grackles.
Peter (UK)
In 1969 my sister came to stay with me in London to look for a job and find a place to live. The day she arrived I’d be given two tabs of LSD and decided to try one whilst she was there. I turned into this LSD evangelist telling her how mind changing It was. Soon I was high and hallucinating. In this state I convinced my younger sister she should try it. She went along with it. Soon my trip turned overwhelmingly bad. The next thing I remember is my sister sitting on the outside ledge of the open window. We were four stories up. I was terrified that she might fall. I went down to the communal hall to call a friend. I told him what was happening. I went back up to the flat. I tied to talk my sister down, but she wouldn’t listen. Finally my friend arrived and sat next to the window and calmly talked to her. After a while my sister climbed in. This experience still haunts me. My stupidity at taking drugs while my sister was there. And my thoughtlessness and bone headed stupidity in talking her into taking this drug. I have no doubt my friend saved her life that day. I am forever grateful to him. And ashamed and tortured that I put my sister’s life at risk.
calannie (Oregon)
@Peter Those of us who were privileged to share Kesey's stash of pure Sandoz laboratory LSD and later Owsley's excellent version knew to follow certain protocols. One was that before ever taking it yourself you spent a day observing someone else taking it--learning from observation what could happen during a trip. Second was you never took it alone--you did it with a guide, someone who had had it before but stayed straight to help you if there were difficulties. Someone who could remind you "you just ate a drug and the effect will wear off in a few hours." We also knew that street acid and real, pure LSD-25 were two different creatures. Owsley explained to me once how difficult it was to make "real" LSD, and that if you got the formula slightly off it could cause all sorts of bad reactions. Unfortunately, the many who just gobbled down whatever some dealer chose to call LSD didn't understand that.
Art (An island in the Pacific)
I'm pleased that these drugs are getting a second look by therapists and researchers. I was recreational user in the late 70s. Apart from the enjoyment of the trip per se, I can attest to the calmness, clarity and general sense of well-being that came the following day. Not particularly motivated to use again, especially not at the mind-blowing doses of yesterday, but I could see the potential benefits of micro-dosing as described in the article.
Tim Hooton (Oregon)
I had the good fortune to live in Springfield, home at the time of the Springfield Creamery and the Health Food and Pool Store. Ken, Chuck, and Sue Kesey were very approachable and kind to this wannabe hippie. Living in what was locally referred to as Berkeley North I was transformed from a repressive Catholic upbringing to the wonders of the local drug culture of the late 60’s/early 70’s and the amazing music scene that came with it. Although I consumed what I thought was good LSD starting in 1969 (and enjoyed every bit of it) I had the good fortune to be gifted a hit of Owsely by a young woman who worked at the HF&PS and lived on Ken Kesey’s farm outside of Pleasant Hill. It was the most amazing and transformative experience. I have never dropped since thinking that I could never duplicate the experience. I have lived long enough to witness the up and downside of drug use and abuse. Although I have lived a life of moderation in most things I fondly look back on those days as something to cherish and glad I came out on the other side ok.
Clay (Eugene)
@Tim Hooton "Sometimes you get shone the light/in the strangest of places/ if you look at it right." (G.D.)
A Reader (US)
@Clay , that's "shown the light".
Ides of March Brown (Arlington VA)
Clearly one of the great propaganda efforts of the last half of the 20th century was the "War on Drugs". Modern medicine will have to reinvent the wheel of course. All of this adds up to a tragedy of humanity. The clinical trials of the 40's and 50's were promising but no you can't have that, we have to jail blacks and hippies. The weakest and most fearful among us make up the rules for the rest of us. Kinda reminds me of evangelicals and other orthodoxies. Nice of Catholics to help us out by murdering off the "mushroom cult" 600 years ago, they're still at it right? Modern medicine is gonna reinvent this though, whether it needs it or not. Leary was a miserable scientist and he let his own "Ego" make him into a target. Good intentions, bad execution. Big Pharma is all over this and look out, they're already making specious claims only an idiot could even make up. The ancients who introduced this to us understood it. Pay attention to those writings and read Paul Stamets on all of this. Its just not that complicated.
J (US)
The comment section is as much a social experiment revealing attitudes of NYT readers. Pretty stiff around here. I thought liberal people were the more enlightened? Think for yourself. Question authority.
L (AL)
For those interested in therapeutic uses of hallucinogens, I highly recommend the podcast “Cover Story Power Trip.” season one explores these wild origins of “healing” - season two exposes the shoddy recent clinical trials.
Phil Glass (London)
"The group leaders hid the LSD in a glass container out in the bay, under water." Any chance it might still be there, forgotten?
Harriet (New York)
I’m very worried about the women in this story. To be isolated, constantly is a vulnerable state because of mind-altering drugs, in a deeply misogynistic culture of 60s America and to be outnumbered 60/40. Yikes. I would really have liked some female perspectives in this article.
Patrick (NYC)
@Harriet It would actually be much worse if the ratio was reversed, judging from stories about a certain once all female college just north of NYC. Plus 1962 was hardly the sixties.
Harriet (New York)
I never understood the concept that hallucinogens reveal the true nature of reality or of your existence. LSD alters your brain chemistry so that it temporarily blurs boundaries that are normally perceived when not on the drug. This makes it seem that you are merged with the environment or people around you. That we are all one.But of course that is not true and not how life or the world functions. The ego, our sense of self and our boundaries are a good thing and needed to survive. Hallucinogens are a mental amusement park ride and should be treated as such.
Mary (Twentynine Palms. CA)
@Harriet You need to come out to Joshua Tree. We usually bring a pretty good DJ from Los Angeles and just let loose on shrooms from Saturday through Sunday night. It's really a good time!
Miss Anne Thrope (Utah)
With acid you can take a trip without the brain-dead burning of copious amounts of the fossil fuels that are making Our Only Home unlivable for us (and a bunch of other cool critters, like billions of birds and, oh yeah, those cutesy sea turtles pictured in this travel-pimping article). Yo, NYT! We're in the middle of a full-blown, self-created climate disaster. Stop pimping heedless pleasure travel!
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Miss Anne Thrope Wow, if anyone could benefit from a vacation to Zihuatanejo, a place like no other, it just might be you. No, an acid trip has nothing resembling the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and warm friendliness of being in Zihuatanejo. Zihuatanejo is a bit of a trip back in time to simpler values. The people who visit us make possible some of the miracles we work, such as helping to bring sea turtles back from the brink of extinction. Zihuatanejo is a place to learn to see the world in a new light. Meet and enjoy being among people who still speak the original languages of this land, including the Nahuatl of the Aztecs. Escape the fear and vices of so-called modern society that seems to have left you cynical and somewhat intolerant. Those "cutesy" sea turtles are being helped to survive by dedicated locals and visitors and money from tourism. Zihuatanejo isn't Acapulco or Vallarta or Los Cabos or Miami Beach, and we have no desire to be like those places. Come let your hair hang down, relax, share a mezcal with a local, visit a local school whose students benefit from our visitors, and see for yourself how responsible travel can be good for you and the community you visit. Life is too short to have such a sour attitude towards travel as yours. Thank goodness our prehistoric ancestors ventured far and wide from their caves.
EB (San Diego, CA)
@ZihuaRob Sounds lovely! I just may come on down.
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@EB I hope you will. The only rule I recommend for tourists is don't make too many plans before you get here, and remember to drink plenty of water. Something too many folks seem to forget while chugging down excessive amounts of alcohol then wondering what they ate that made them ill when it is often simply from dehydration. What's warm for locals can be hot for people from cooler climes until they acclimate, and water is your friend. And as far as making too many plans, so many folks try to see and do everything on a week-long vacation, and you just can't possibly do so, nor should you try. Decide what you want to do after you get up and have your breakfast. maybe you'll be just fine sitting under a palapa reading a book and letting the sounds of the surf mesmerize you. Maybe you'll want to go exploring. Do whatever you feel like, but don't try to do it all on one trip. Sea turtles will return in larger numbers to nest in June and continue throughout the year into winter. The last nest I saw was about a month and a half ago. Whales also come here in the fall and winter, sometimes entering our bay. Lots of local boat operators are trained guides for whale watching. Here's a useful source of info about Zihuatanejo and our region of the Costa Grande of Mexico. www.zihuatanejo.net
Cathykent (Oregon)
“You, are a powerful, unlimited and eternal soul who is here to enjoy the experience of creativity and to contribute to humanity’s evolution” T Leary. Couldn’t of said it better and since the word human, a Latin word from 17 century with meaning from the earth to the earth it makes you wonder just how many spores are in a blade of grass. Been to Z many times and it’s hot hot hot I mean fry an egg on sidewalk hot
ck (chicago)
@Cathykent Did you really say "A Latin word from the 17th Century"? I thought I was tripping when I read that.
HC (Maryland)
Alternatively, there are natural ways (absent of substances) to achieve highs and make breakthroughs. Dr Andrew Weil wrote a book in the early 70s, called The Natural Mind. There have been several editions / revisions of this book. The above is not intended to discount that appropriate dosages of certain psychedelic drugs can offer healing.
Clay (Eugene)
@HC Indeed, if I remember correctly, Dr. Weil advocated the use of certain psychedelic drugs for healing. I still have the book and will reread it.
Rusty (Houston)
Hallucinogenics can be interesting. I enjoyed them the handful of times I tried them. But as a lifestyle it's a distraction from life and not an enhancement. Then again there's William Burroughs' experience in Mexico City or Neil Cassady's in San Miguel de Allende.
James Moore (Toronto)
“Ego Death” is a real occurrence at dosages in excess of 750-1000 mcg of pure LSD. Nicholas Sands, who along with Stanley Owsley produced probably the most famous LSD formulation “Orange Sunshine” (the CIA synthesis used different precursors and was not nearly as “spiritual”, go figure). Mr. Sands was arrested in Port Coquitlam BC in 1996 but he was the engine behind virtually every tab being consumed in western NA for more than a decade after fleeing the States. If you tripped at a Grateful Dead show 1980-1995 you most certainly consumed his formulation. Mr Owsley is famous of course for being the chemist who made the LSD for the Grateful Dead and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Since I see war stories on this thread I’ll share mine. I once inadvertently filled a vial with water that had held 10 grams of crystal LSD (belonging to above mentioned gentleman) and drank it. Likely between 10000-100000 ( 1000 “hits” perhaps) within 15 minutes I had all the classic Hoffman described symptoms which quickly progressed to full ego dissolve. I found myself clinging to a rocky almost vertical cliff face in a howling blizzard, 1000s of feet below me was a warm orange pagoda and footbridge representing all my previous LSD experiences and all my foolishness, suddenly the blizzard winds turned to me full face and the biting snow now metamorphosed into razor sharp shards of crystal LSD that stripped my flesh then my bones in the shrieking gale. I still reflect on the trip almost daily.
Bradford McCormick (New York)
Well, isn't it fun to kick a cat? "A Return Trip to Timothy Leary’s Psychedelic, Day-Glo Mexico". Professor Leary may have been a bit kooky, but he did not kill thousands of people in Vietnam, nor did he make his career off being a prude and bringing down The governor of The State of New York. Let's talk about Harvard psychology professors: One, whose name I do not know, got away with murder: He had a class in which he, like many such petty pedagogues with tenure do, used his undergraduate students as free lab rats. His experiment, the purpose f which the victims did not know about, was to explore how persons react to being humiliated. One of those students was a mathematical genius who was also emotionally sensitive. The student figured out the purpose of the experiment he had been subjected to and it changed his life. You may know that student as: "The Unabomber". Timothy Leary never caused anybody to become a mass murderer, and this dude was never indicted or even fired from the university. LSD or MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction)?
Emphemerol (Northern California)
@Bradford McCormick : The uni-bomber aka terrible Theodore ( Ted ) Kaczynski was and is a clinical psychopath. He was not born this way, and according to his very own 'mother' and the very detailed reports about how, as a young young boy, there was a break in the primal bond between mother and child by virtue of him being sent into a hospital for months on end to be treated for a 'rash'. He was left alone to cry on a hospital bed and was not allowed to be visited by his mother. Even she told the FBI of how he was 'never the same' after that. This after his own brother turned him in after recognizing his handwriting, text and sentence formations. This is unfortunately very common of children of war and adoption. As far as Mr. Leary was, he was a charlatan and a cleaver manipulator as so many cult leaders are and have been. I am also far from being anti-altered state, however it's time to revisit this area carefully and pursue research for a wide variety of purposes. Just the damages I have seen from alcohol alone are staggering, especially in women. But having said all of this remember such medications as Botox arrived from research into a very deadly pathogen and even Thalidomide is or was being used now to now shrink cancerous tumors.
Robert J. Shnorklington (NY)
Leary was a nasty creep who became a cult leader in Millbrook NY where a popular activity was giving LSD to very young children and toddlers to ‘groove’ on the experience.
Tina Trent (Florida)
@Robert J. Shnorklington Thank you. That, and also, he was abusive to students at Harvard, carelessly feeding them drugs and dropping the bad outcomes from his "studies." He participated in the same years later with Ecstasy at my college. None of this was real scientific research. Those who believed it were delusional -- or were being dangerously exploited.
Bad Uncle (Coachella Adjacent)
First time I took acid was in 1966. It was still legal. Actually the first few times I took it, it was still legal. My friend and I met Timothy Leary at a Halloween party when he had a house in Woodstock. I tripped in the East Village, Sunset Strip and Haight-Ashbury—all the hot spots. I don’t recommend the experience for everyone. It can be intense. It is life altering. LSD and other psychedelics gave me the tools to be able to change many of my bad habits and acquire new better ones. It also can teach you more about yourself and about the nature of the universe that you could imagine. There are many other ways to do it…but maybe not as fun and interesting.
c harris (Candler, NC)
Psylocibin is a mood elevator. There is much interest in its ability to help people with depression. When in Jamaica several years ago I spent a week tripping on mushrooms. It gave me tremendous sense of self confidence. I remember while snorkeling around coral reefs marveling at the variety of life that they drew. It was like an aquatic city. I was much more sociable than I usually am. I was uninhibited and enjoyed joining in dancing. I fondly remember the experience.
Susanna (New Mexico)
@c harris I'm curious. You say several years have gone by, so my question is, have the positive effects remained at all?
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Susanna Lasting effects of psychedelics depend on the person. Most people shouldn't get near psychedelics. A strong self-aware mind is essential, otherwise you drift off into the fear and worry zone of paranoia and have the proverbial bummer or bad trip. You must be prepared mentally to take care of yourself. Having a "guide" presupposes mental weakness and dependence on others, and again, acid is not for folks who are going to forget they took a substance that will wear off in 8 to 10 hours. So yes, it can be a life changing liberation or a turnoff or the beginning of a mental breakdown. I've seen alcoholics cured by psychedelics, and I've seen other people lose their self in fantasy. In my case it's probably been a couple of decades since I tripped on anything. There is an immediate effect that lasts from several days to several months depending on the substance, the dosage and the experience of the person, of being extremely lucid and aware. And there are longer lasting effects of simply being able to remember the freedom your mind felt for a while. I would never recommend acid or psilocybin or mescaline or any drug to anyone, but I'm certainly glad I know what the experiences are like.
RSM (Philadelphia PA)
I took a bus ride to Bermuda in 1970 and lost half my seeds when I fell out of the pot.
Susanna (New Mexico)
@RSM Far less exotically, I got lost (with friends) in the Disneyland parking lot, as a consequence of eating pot brownies. The brownies kicked in right around the time that we rode through Monsanto's Trip Through The Atom.
ck (chicago)
@Susanna I don't know why but I have to tell you this. My college boyfriend and I went on a family excursion of some sort with his family and a lot of other families to Disneyland. And I thought it was weird that he'd baked brownies for everyone on the bus. I thought I was high on the bus but when we disembarked the bus I knew I was high . .Lightbulb moment. "Dude, did you just feed hash brownies to fifty strangers aged five to sixty on a bus??" He said "they won't know -- it's Disneyland." So I'm pretty sure I saw you there is my point.
Tina Trent (Florida)
@ck Sickening. And illegal.
Patrick Herron (California)
Having read TC Boyles “Outside Looking In” about Tim Leary’s early years and the history of LSD, some of it referencing this period spent in Mexico, it seemed somewhat less idyllic than this article… one might take a different view of Leary though today’s prism. But,having hitchhiked and surfed along this coastline in the late sixties one thing many of us can vouch for, Mexico was a beautiful yet brutal country, much as it is today,
Jay Edwards (Walden CO)
My wife and I hitch hiked from Ann Arbor to Zijuatanejo in 1966. We stayed in a room owned by a Federale. It had an open ceiling so our smoke was drifting and drifting. He had two young daughters and it was all very nice. We hiked around and out to the ocean. It was/is a wonderful place. I swam, but my wife didn't swim, so.... We were smoking grass, but had experience with Sandoz. There were some other hippies [We were hippies.] who had a pile of grass in the middle of their palapa, and it seemed scary to us so we bid them adieu. Unfortunately, they took a 'bust' while we were there, and it didn't turn out very well for them. Acapulco was their home for a while we understand. We spent four months hitch hiking in Mexico, and saw a great deal of the country, but traveling all the time, sleeping on the ground a lot. 'Sleeping Where We Fall.' We did go back in 2001 in a rental car, and it was still a great place. The trip from Teotihuacan, Mexico City, Toluca, Taxco, Chilpancingo, was still pretty back country, or some was, and some seemed so. Ixtapa island was where my wIfe started to drift away from me. She still couldn't swim, but the fish, the fish. There were some pretty big rollers washing her around and it was kinda scaring me. She lived. Cinco de Mayo is our anniversary, fifty six years, so far.
Giro (Your reality)
What a beautiful comment
Suntom (Belize)
@Giro.....I agree...it's just so authentically real
Passion for Peaches (left coast)
I would advise anyone with anxiety disorder to be careful with hallucinogens. If you are in a bad place with your anxiety when you take the medicine, it can push you into a worse one. You need to do this with someone who knows what they are doing and will sit with you and monitor your state of mind. Several months ago I experimented with small doses of pulverized “plant medicine” (aka, a dried hallucinogenic mushroom) I obtained from a friend who is a trained guide. Some of the experiences — I wouldn’t call them trips because these were low doses — were pleasant, but the last time I tried it I plummeted into such a deep and frightening state of anxiety that I threw the rest of the mushroom powder away. Before I abandoned this experiment, I tried taking it as a microdose in a “Stamets stack” with lion’s mane and niacin. That was okay. But the problem with mushrooms is they vary in the amount of hallucinogen they carry, and that varies even from cap to stem (which is why it’s good to grind them up). The powder is hard to weigh accurately for dosing, too. It can be a guessing game, how much drug you are ingesting. I’m just not comfortable taking the risk, after what I experienced.
kirilov (seattle)
I spent a couple of weeks in Zijuatanejo in November of 1971, my first real experience of the tropics. It was a small friendly, inexpensive place on a beautiful bay, and a real expedition by bus from Mexico City. There was no development in the area then and Zijuatanejo was the end of the line. We smoked pot (illegal) and drank beer on the beach and sweated through the humid nights. The swimming in the bay was so lovely but, being a weak inexperienced swimmer, I nearly drowned in a rip on the open ocean coast north of town off a beach beyond my skill. I still dream of that lovely place with its graceful coconut groves but I've never been back.
CG (Oregon)
@kirilov I was there a few years later. It was a paradise...with iguanas everywhere!
RRM (Seattle)
@kirilov I was there with friends in the spring of 1971. It was beautiful and a mostly untouched fishing village. My friends and I stayed in small huts on the beach. We were told that the day before we arrived, John Wayne had pulled into the bay in his renovated Navy PT boat just to say hello to the locals.
Beach Bum (LA)
With such mind-bending, technicolor sunsets like the one in the lead photo, why would anyone need to drop acid in Zihuantanejo? You could stare just as rapturously at that sunset and the stab of its after image as you could a hallucination of it and without the risk of a bad trip.
Kyle (Chicago)
A fun read. But the Beatle inferences are bit a revisionist. The lads never wrote about Mexico.
ZihuaRob (Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, Mexico)
@Kyle No, but it's widely believed here in Mexico that some members of the group visited a known shaman named María Sabina of Oaxaca to try mushrooms, and local gossip has it they later visited a town named Tepetlixpa in the state of Mexico where a local group of musicians, La Banda Plástica de Tepetlixpa offered them mole, pulque, nopales and totopos. Whether the story is true or not, you can hear the band's tribute to The Beatles on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_n9ns6VnYcIb00qEyk3tYU2JLhMwQ7hBPY
Tune in...Turn on...Drop out...Ahhh the world as it could have been...
jimmyboy (manhattan)
Tripping, in moderation of course, is just stinking fun. I've gone from natural mushrooms, blotter acid, extracts a few times and it has always been a great time; concerts, hikes, long afternoons at home. If you haven't done it yet, give it some thought (but look into who/ what you're ingesting first) and step into the light. Last thought -- I can't really tell why this is a Travel article...I'd put it in Lifestyles if I were a Sulzberger...
Sharon (St. Helena, CA)
Dr. Jack Downing introduced me to LSD in l969 and I am forever grateful. We remained close friends until he died and I heard all the stories of the Zihuatanejo escapades. He and a handful of other visionaries really laid the groundwork for the intelligent research that is going on today. This can change and save many lives if properly legalized. After many decades of not taking psychedelics, I have returned via micro-dosing and it has once again provided a sea change in my life. Thank you, Jack, for the introduction.
MuscleOutlaw (LVNV)
That were the days, everybody was tripping. In 1971 when my friends & I arrived at Winterland in San Francisco for a psychedelic all-night New Years Eve concert somebody was at the door handing everyone a card to which was taped a complimentary hit of blotter acid.
heywally (Florida)
1969 was my LSD year, in Chicago; I was 16/17. I do not recommend any drugs or alcohol for teens, too much downside. Plenty of upside in staying a straight cool person. I had maybe one handful of great trips out of 30 or so, the highlight being a 1/4 barrel of what I believe was the original Orange Sunshine. Reasonable guess since it was produced in big numbers, was so strong, came on so quickly, and produced wonderful hallucinations, with no ill effects. The other 3/4 of that barrel shot off into and down the crack behind our bathroom sink after I cut it with a razor blade. Since no more could be had I seriously considered ripping the sink off the wall to get to it. “Mom!!, don’t know what happened, sat on the sink and ….” Two of my friends had true freak outs, with one guy destroying his parent’s apartment when he had some kind of break. For me, an amazing drug with lots of potential badness, at full doses.
John (Seattle)
One of my most memorable acid trips was while traveling on a bus between Qom and Teheran. It was 1969, and the bus was a full-sized Mercedes being driven by two Afghani brothers who had bought it in Germany to start a bus service in Kabul. About 10 of us had paid $25 to go from Istanbul to Kabul, and we had lots of room to spread out. Somewhere outside Qom, a lone figure appeared on the horizon — a young woman with blonde hair and her thumb out for a ride. She had no luggage apart from a small plastic bag that turned out to contain 500 tabs of pure LSD, which she immediately shared. What best I remember now, so many years later, are the surreally vibrant colors of the desert and the roiling permutations of the clouds, which formed heroic figures in the sky, reminiscent of the Trevi Fountain statuary.
backpropagation (Boston)
@John What a story! Please tell us more...Why was a young blonde woman outside Qom carrying nothing but 500 tabs of LSD?
august west (cape cod)
@John I love this story.
Stuart Smith (Utah)
@backpropagation It was the 60's silly.
ElleJ (CT)
If more evangelicals, catholic zealots and authoritarian MAGA ancestors had tripped, life in the US wouldn’t be the dystopian, hate filled, fearful and aggrieved mess it has now become. Repression leads to even greater repression. The sixty year spectacular failure of the republican war on drugs, sparing only the billionaire Sacklers, has now devolved into their vicious war on women.
Patrick (NYC)
@ElleJ On an article like this about a place in Mexico in 1962, why does a some totally unrelated political rant about the US in 2022 always get the most likes? And they complain about Fox and its constant bombardment of propaganda. Such a bummer. Lighten up.
Ides of March Brown (Arlington VA)
@Patrick Because it follows. I actually read that and totally understood every word of it. Lighten up? The same catholic religious zealots who murdered thousands of indigenous peoples 600 years ago for using mushrooms are now on the Supreme Court. All of this threatens their religion even today. Catholics are still the bloody sword of colonialism. I agree with the writer about the devolution of the War on Drugs pivoting to a deeper voodoo, a War on Women. Lighten up. Right.
Patrick (NYC)
@Ides of March Brown Timothy Leary was Catholic.
Dwight Jones (Vancouver)
An excellent revisiting of Zhiwhat. There is a philosophical moment in it when you realize its population has gone from 8000 to 126000, the same way PVR did after the Liz Taylor sojourns. And thus does reality descend like an iron curtain on that era around psychodelia. The NYT does bring to notice how this meme evolves over decades, from disapproval and expulsion and dissolution, to the NYT's own acquiescence over psilocybin et al. Only Tim could ever describe it aptly. And I miss his commentary.
dad (los arcangeles)
@Dwight Jones Fortunately, this cultural demonization of entheogens is but a mere blip in the historical record: “Archaeological evidence shows the presence of cannabis residue at holy biblical sites in the ancient city of Tel Arad in Israel, while scholarship also points to the use of acacia wood (containing DMT) and a cocktail of other entheogens used in Israelite incense rituals, as well as kaneh-bosm (cannabis) in Christ’s holy anointing oil.” https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-features/psychedelics-religion-entheogens-1160408/
Craig Lucas (Putnam valley)
It's so interesting how oppositional so many people are about historical events. Are we really so invested in taking up arms against examining our past? If Leary and his Harvard associates were claiming these substances could help with depression, addiction, prison recidivism, marital strife, and now more studies are verifying many of those same claims, wouldn't a curious citizen of the world wonder why was it so important to halt all research and scientific investigation for so many of the intervening decades? We all seem to have succumbed to the round-the-clock rhetoric of blame coming out of Washington and cable news. What if we allowed ourselves to feel or think or know new things that connected us to a shared humanity? Leary may have been tragically flawed, but he was also relentlessly pursued by the likes of G. Gordon Liddy and thrown into a cell next to Charles Manson, and for what? Possession of a half-inch marijuana cigarette. Let's know our history and keep an open heart about something in this mysterious universe before we all become our own worst enemies.
Mike Seltzer (Monterey County)
Set and setting. Brilliant!
Nate (Minneapolis)
The world could use a little more LSD. And dare I say you don't need to travel to these retreats in South America to experience powerful psychedelics. DMT is quite easy, and safe, to extract using all legal ingredients. Respect it, don't abuse it, and make sure to give thanks. Safe travels!
Todd (Cleveland)
@Nate Yes but please protect the toads!
Dennis (Oregon)
Thanks for a story illuminated by the stories and myths of my youth. I keep trying to coast on the high I first got from marijuana. Nothing but all these years. It was enough and sometimes too much. Our own consciousness always lies next to our extinction, which is why life burns so brightly. Aldous Huxley tripped on mushrooms at his death. Luckily, he was prepared. He may still be dreaming.
Nate (Minneapolis)
Life is a dream.
august west (cape cod)
@Dennis his wife injected him with LSD when he died. that’s the way i’m going too.
Jim smith (California)
@august west I thought the injection was mescaline?
Mary Ann Rombach (Invermere, British Columbia)
Timothy Leary was an Arschloch who ruined the reputation of my generation.
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
@Mary Ann Rombach I agree, the Beatles were awful too, I fully supported burning their albums after John Lennon blasphemed by saying they were more popular than Jesus. I won't even go into Jim Morrison and the snake . . .
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
@Erik Frederiksen /snark
Mike Seltzer (Monterey County)
@Erik Frederiksen You could use a dose or two.
Judy Johnson (Cambridge, MA)
Went on 5 or 6 LSD trips which were all wonderful. Very unique, strange, frightening and mind bending experiences. Writing about some of that in my memoir, "The Red Boa" which I hope will be published soon.
Robert J. Shnorklington (NY)
An interesting effect of LSD and other strong hallucinogens on users is the desire to cause other people to take the drugs. Leary and now Michael Pollan are examples. The current widespread interest in ‘therapeutic’ use of these strong drugs is entirely a ‘back to the future’ situation. All the same exaggerated claims, such as cure for depression, alcoholism, you name it. But in the end the pleasure and efficacy of these drugs comes down to getting blasted, delightfully for some terrifyingly for others. And now as before, the projects by advocates to ‘turn people on’ are doomed by the essential nature of these powerful intoxicants.
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
@Robert J. Shnorklington "An interesting effect of LSD and other strong hallucinogens on users is the desire to cause other people to take the drugs." Not in my case. I've had about a dozen experiences with hallucinogens over the last 50 years and have never tried to get others to take them. I'd be curious if you have any evidence to back up that assertion, or I'll be tempted to dismiss it.
Alf Alpha (Midwest)
@Robert J. Shnorklington "the desire to cause other people to take the drugs." Oh, the old Pusherman trope, huh? As someone with years of experience with psychedelic drugs, my opinion is when something works its simply pharmaceutical advice, not a desire to proselytize. And one is never "blasted" on these drugs, you misunderstand the experience.
Robert J Shnorklington (NY)
As a teen in the bay area during the 60s, one had to be vigilant to avoid being dosed with LSD unwittingly at any kind of get together and there were many Leary types preaching about LSD. The US government ran several programs to try out LSD on both knowing and unknowing subjects. Kesey, Aldous Huxley and many other writers and artists encouraged people indiscriminately to take it. Just sayin’ that unlike most other types of intoxicants, there have been a lot of prominent cheerleaders for hallucinogens as drugs people ‘should’ take. Inevitably this takes the form of recommending them as some kind of ‘therapy’, whereas we never see alcoholic beverages for example suggested as ‘therapy’. Having taken enough of every kind of hallucinogen and studied them scientifically, it is safe to say they hold no true therapeutic potential in terms of providing lasting help with psychological disorders. People new to the issue should read up and learn that all the therapeutic claims being made these days have been explored by many entranced and perhaps well-meaning ‘investigators. These drugs are great fun for people who enjoy them, but quite dangerous for many people.
M.F. (NYC)
Dismissive of Ram Dass much?
Niall (3rd Stone from the Sun)
It’s worth pointing out that LSD in 1962 and 1963 was perfectly legal in the United States. And it was the Sandoz pharmaceutical grade variety. And Hofmann actually first synthesized LSD in 1938, he just didn’t quite figure out what he stumbled onto until 1943. So in 1962 Leary was a professor playing with a legal pharmaceutical that had only really been available for a very short period of time. It helps to have context here.
Bill (FL)
@Niall I started grad school in psychology at Harvard 2 years after Tim Leary was fired, though a few of his acolytes were still aroun and drawing curious stares and speculation on campus: Were they burned out? Could they complete their dissertations and pass their oral exams? Leary and LSD did not appeal to me because I knew some people with serious reality breaks due to abuse of various substances; the idea of frying my one and only brain was off-putting. I and many of my fellow grad students did use marijuana in moderation, but I did not try LSD until I was considering post-doctoral research on the possible benefits of LSD. I found the acid experience a bit scary and disorienting, and after a few tries I gave up using or studying mind-altering drugs. Years later I visited Zihuataneho during a hurricane and found the town quite enchanting; the hurricane was mind-bending even without chemical enhancement. At the time I did not know of the town’s linkage to Leary or I would have checked it out. For a couple of years after using LSD I had the occasional brief unbidden flashback, nothing scary or disorienting, and even today I can call up one or two LSD experiences that were particularly memorable because of their unusual visual components, not my emotional or psychological responses. As I near my 81st birthday I have no urge or desire to take LSD again, nor ‘shrooms or other psychedelic substances; nowadays, as they used to say, I am content to get high on life.
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
That coast is absolutely beautiful. About 20 years ago I spent a month a little south of there in the sleepy town of Puerto Escondido which has perhaps the 3rd best surfing beach on the planet. For a hundred miles up and down the coast not a building over 3 stories and lagoons filled with prolific bird life, ocean temps were 85 degrees F (they may be 87 or more now . . .). Walk down a deserted beach to a shack where a woman says if we want lunch come back in an hour, so we do and there's a plate of baby shrimps harvested a few hours previously right of the beach with chiles she picked that morning.
Martin (Vermont)
@Erik Frederiksen Yes, this article took me back to the remote Pacific towns like Puerto Escondido that I visited in the late '70's. I had to go to Google maps and zoom in on Zihuatanejo and find that 3rd cove beyond Playa La Ropa. From the map and the satellite view you can see that amazingly Playa Las Gatas is still accessible only by boat with a few restaurants along the beach and scattered bungalows above on the hillside, fancier I'm sure, but not so much different than years ago. But the "Riviera Maya"? Where we camped on the beach within sight of the Playa del Carmen dock condos and all inclusive resorts stretch for miles in both directions, and no one is swimming at Playita Tortuga or walking in to that hidden cenote at km marker 187.
Kevin (NY)
@Martin Poor Playa del Carmen. It’s become everything that’s bad about Mexico. Can’t believe it’s the town I spent so much time in. Zihuatanejo. Long may it stay unspoiled.
dad (los arcangeles)
Many people don’t understand that hallucinogenic drugs are not for recreational purposes. The are powerful and they must be respected, especially if you intend on taking large doses. All of the hallucinogens in concentrated doses will trigger the same sensation as a ‘near-death experience’ and are a good way to prepare yourself for your eventual removal from the world of the living. Some people find solace in the near-death experience and others find fright and debilitating delusions and anxiety. Your psychic resistance to the experience indicates your level of emotional preparedness. Don’t do the drug if you have negative experiences because you will only continue to have them until you understand why. These drugs routinely amplify the ‘feedback experience’ of human emotion. Personally, I began to notice that I was having ‘bad trips’ if my feet got cold. If I could find a way to keep them warm, everything was sunshine and golden Buddhas. The most important thing to understand about the psychedelic experience is that you can eventually control it. You can see the fear and conquer it before it overwhelms you. You can actually control your mind and the way you react to stress and anxiety, and ultimately you can find your center of bliss and pass from this world into the next not with fear but fortitude. For all the people that find their psychic mountain and summit it, they find something uniquely spiritual and sublime, and for their travels they are ultimately rewarded.
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
@dad Oddly enough psychedelics share something with real estate, location, location, location. Get off the trail in a Northern California grove of ancient Redwood trees and connect with nature in astounding ways. Having resources for equanimity is good as you note. The first time I took LSD I was 15 and by myself in my room. I listened to the album American Beauty by the Grateful Dead the whole time while turning my grandfather's paintings of trees in my mind into any movie I wished. Back then I had to get up every 20 minutes or so and flip the LP
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
@Erik Frederiksen Why was the album American Beauty a resource for equanimity? It's the aural equivalent of an LSD trip with lines like: "… Tell you what I'll do I'll watch out for you You're my woman now Make yourself easy Make yourself easy Make yourself easy" I wasn't a woman, and still am not, but I still found their lyrics and music incredibly kind and supportive
Niall (3rd Stone from the Sun)
@Erik Frederiksen American Reality. Ripple in still water When there is no pebble tossed Nor wind to blow
Erik Frederiksen (Asheville, NC)
"In the late 1950s, the C.I.A. was testing it as a potential mind control weapon" The author Ken Kesey participated in these early CIA tests. A while after ingesting some, long enough that he was very high, an interviewer decided to test his sense of time and started a stop watch and asked Kesey to tell him when a minute was up. Kesey's sense of time was blasted, but as an athlete he knew his resting pulse and surreptitiously slipped the fingers of one hand to the other wrist. And started counting. At exactly one minute Kesey says times up and blows the interviewer's mind.
pjc (Cleveland)
What's interesting to observe, and once you notice it you can't help but see it all the time, is that in that beautiful photo, or rather on that beach, those red clouds are not actually themselves "red." Their color lies in the light refracting off the clouds over great distances. The color is in, so to speak, that distance, not the cloud. This is why sunsets in airplanes are boring; the distances up there don't work right for it to do this. Now, about where exactly rainbows are...
Kally (Kettering)
@pjc I’ve seen some beautiful sunsets (and sunrises) from an airplane window.
Ponk (Philadelphia)
Why should anyone care? Framing a travel article in terms of drug use is appalling. And so is any veneration of Leary. Get some class back.
pjc (Cleveland)
@Ponk History? Important moments or periods in social and cultural history? Trying to answer your question. I'm inherently curious. Did you know that were it not for the quirk of slight mistake in a boring Swiss lab, none of this happens? But maybe something else happens, and maybe it sparks curiosity in a different direction. Maybe the mistake happens in the other experiment, and leads Albert Hoffman to the accidental discovery of a cure for baldness? The Sixties would have been so different. Or rather, maybe the 70's would have. Men wouldn't have lost their hair and had to stop with the locks. The fragility of the male ego -- a thing of the past. Male pattern baldness has caused so much suffering. But no, Albert Hoffman had to discover acid.
Cary (Oregon)
@Ponk I care. Mystical experience is legitimate, whether induced by an exogenous chemical change in the brain or by saying five thousand consecutive Hail Mary's or whatever. And apparently conflating all drug use as the same thing is appalling.
Mike (Massachusetts)
You’re not invited to many parties, are you?
Stephan Morrow (Manhattan)
I have mixed feelings reading about this because I was one of those (dare I say) misguided youths who only partook a few times - but there was a danger to tripping's euphoria: I had landed in Kalalau Valley on Kuai (you had to hike in 12 mi from the trailhead & no one wore clothing – a veritable Garden of Eden) & got to know a fellow Valley denizen and his girl living on the beach who had some window pane acid. Lying there on the sand, I was drawn into the waves & ended up utterly alone in the water being sucked rapturously down into the blue water. So seductive that there was a moment when I let myself be pulled down into the bosom of the waves & wasn't sure I was willing to pull myself out of its gentle womb. & that was just the beginning: Later I started climbing up the face of the waterfall there ( someone had told me it was a very easy thing to do.) & got stuck about a full story up spread eagled with no way to move up or down. Since I had also become familiar w/ Don Juan the Yaqui man of knowledge I was able to hook some psychic tendrils from my navel as he had, focus on a rock & torturously make my way to the top. Imagine my surprise when I found that behind the water there was an ancient rock stairway. Very lucky. Around that time I concluded that either you could soberly achieve your dreams (mine was to express significant things on stage) or dream about them stoned out of your gourd. S.M. Art Dir The Great American Play Series https://youtu.be/tKk1tqyrDeUd
Keef in Cucamonga (inland empire)
Timothy Leary was a fed.
pjc (Cleveland)
@Keef in Cucamonga Jerry Garcia was in the Army. No one has ever found a record of his alleged discharge papers. "Captain" Trips indeed.
Niall (3rd Stone from the Sun)
@Keef in Cucamonga Not until later. And only as a casualty in the War on (Some) Drugs. But your point is well taken.
august west (cape cod)
@pjc I nearly choked on my margarita. funny stuff.
Mark Cooper (Chicago)
Big words are impressive. “Insouciant tutelage” is oxymoronic.
pjc (Cleveland)
@Mark Cooper So if I run a finishing school for cynics, are you saying I don't teach nothing? Rubbish.
backpropagation (Boston)
@Mark Cooper I'd encourage you to read Rousseau's "Emile," one of the greatest treatises on education ever written (and a predecessor of Montessori education). In this text, the educator is as insouciant as can be, and that's precisely what makes him so effective.
Paul (Berkeley)
As Mr. Weil recalls from his days of youthful innocence it was indeed naive to think that a selected few could change the world overnight. But on the other hand, what is youth for if not to dream of a better life? One glance around our country today demonstrates clearly the failure of those dreams... but it should not halt the experiment. Cheers to Mr. Weil, and to all who still believe in a better future than the misery our generation has bequeathed.
Knucklehead (Charleston SC)
@Paul Dream of things that never were. Carry on.
DB (Cincinnati, OH)
As a related aside, T.C. Boyle's book "Outside Looking In" is a great historical fiction on Leary and eventually goes into this stay in Zihuatanejo. Great read.
See also