Dion Wright here, the person who ran the Art Gallery at Mystic Arts World.
Your article about Nick Schou’s talk is the best piece of journalism on the subject I’ve seen, and over the past several months, I’ve seen quite a few. I’m ambivalent about having missed Nick’s talk, as, A, I wanted to be there for moral support, since I had an inkling of the attack that was coming, and, B, I should have logged the event as the last item in a long sequence. On the other hand, it’s probably just as well that I did not go, since I’m not nearly as civilized and courteous as Nick is, and was itching to lay-out these kvetchers, like Conan the Barbarian.
Over the course of six or seven years, in Nick’s case, and well over 20 years, in my own, all these people have been worse than useless as sources of information, still protecting, one supposes, a de facto criminal enterprise on which the statute of limitations ran out years ago. Because of their omertà, Nick had to grope for what he got, and consequently the complaining is no more than hypocrisy, a fact lost on these basically idealistic, but uneducated, former “pioneers”. The only reason for such continuing stone-walling is to protect ongoing illegal activity, which I presume is long over.
I was faced with a moral (and practical) dilemma when Nick approached me for insight as he was writing his book. I was writing my own book (now approaching publication), and I was chary of handing over my nuggets to somebody else; and also, I was chary of invading the current privacy of old friends who were choosing to hide, for reasons, which I couldn’t understand. Cleaving to protocol, like the good dramatist I wouldn’t mind being, I remembered my premise, set many years ago, which was to memoir my dear lost friend, John Griggs. I realized that Nick’s book could only be better by my participation, thereby introducing John, so I jumped in with both feet.
At the panel talk which I moderated early in the Mystic Artists show at OCCC, I was savagely attacked, verbally, moments before I had to face the audience, by one of the panelists, Mike Randall, current de facto titular head of whatever remains of the Brotherhood. He’s the man who came out strong for Sunshine LSD, if you were there. It turns out that he takes issue with my opinions, especially my poor opinion of Sunshine; but his real gripe is that he thinks “I (Dion) don’t like Timothy Leary.” This is warped on several levels, which will all be ironed-out for whomsoever reads my book. The fact is that I liked Tim Leary very much, the charming rogue, but I also saw him objectively, which Mr. Randall is apparently unprepared to do, having perhaps morphed that swashbuckler into something of a saint.
I think I’ll send you the late, short chapter I just wrote and inserted in the manuscript of my book, “Tempus Fugitive,” the chapter which contrasts Tim with Aldous Huxley. You can sign up to be informed of the emergence of my book by going to www.tempusfugitivebook.com. Lots of pictures, too.
As it has turned out, Nick’s book, “Orange Sunshine,” has opened the gates for revealing this long-obscured aspect of ’60s history. William “Bill” Kirkley has been working on a documentary about it as long as since when Nick was writing, and as of the panel discussion, which he gleefully filmed, Bill has the icing for his cake. He’s also been suffering stone-walling all along, but Bill is a persistent young man, and at last got everybody on film, from Neil Purcell to Mike Randall (although Randall made him sign a contract that he would not interview certain other people, presumably apostate to the true orthodoxy. Now there is an exercise in throttling free speech and accurate journalism; highly inappropriate for a person who is touting enlightenment).
Be that as it may, Bill must now have enough material for a serial documentary a la Ken Burns, and I, for one, am salivating to see it. Other projects are in the works, including, supposedly, a book by Mr. Randall that will correct all of us heretics, and I can hardly wait for that, either.
By the way, having mentioned lapsed statute of limitations regarding the acid trade, I will point out to you that there is nostatute of limitations on arson (or murder), so the miscreant reactionaries who torched my gallery are still on the bull’s eye, should there ever be the will to force an investigation of that 40+ year old felony. At least two of the perps are still alive. I’m not about to name anybody, although I now know who they all are. Most are deceased anyway, but until they all are, who needs a libel suit?
Thanks again for your good article. The Huxley/Leary chapter follows as post-script.
Dion Wright, Flagstaff, Ariz.
Chapter: Aldous Huxley & Timothy Leary
In 1955 Aldous Huxley and his friend Dr. Humphrey Osmond, a Canadian psychiatrist, invented the name “psychedelic” to describe mind-expanding chemicals such as mescaline, the active agent in the otherwise vile peyote cactus. Osmond had come to Hollywood in 1953 to give mescaline to Aldous Huxley, who was not only an eager guinea pig, but the most articulate one in history. Huxley’s two 1953 books about mescaline, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell were written with a slight separation in time, but immediately became joined in fact and the public mind, and sold vigorously, and still do sell well.
Aldous Huxley had been using his prodigious intellect to try to get at the essence of existence, and had always been ultimately frustrated. The arc of Huxley’s evolution as a writer and thinker had been from early celebrity as a humorous satirist of social morés, dealing with substantive ideas, through several novels, until his interest began to turn to emblematic historical ironies. As he pursued his mental growth, he started to evolve beyond some of his readers. By 1943, insulated in the Mojave Desert from World War Two, Aldous wrote three very different books, all on the theme of the possibility of man to grow and change.
The first of these was The Art of Seeing, a clinical narration of his own struggle to regain some of his sight, almost destroyed at the age of twelve by a sudden attack of keratitis pigmentosa.
The second book was Time Must Have a Stop, another excursion into the novel form, investigating the nature of consciousness beyond physical death.
The third book, The Perennial Philosophy, was a summing up, through the fantastic erudition and stupendous intellect of Aldous Huxley, of all the wisdom of all the great mystics of all the world’s religions, or as individuals, with the intent of unifying beatific vision in a compendium of spiritual analogy. He accomplished this in the deep isolation and vast distances and silences of the Mojave Desert, in environment much like the places where his saints had meditated. All this dense work was accomplished by a sickly man with minimal vision in less than a year. The books speak for themselves.
Huxley’s cadre of devotees, however, were struck asunder by the idea that their clever and witty entertainer was going mystic on them. They bitched and kvetched like debutantes at a rained-out soiree. Aldous Huxley paid them no mind, and serenely continued to plow the seas of creative writing with more tonnage than any others, and a robustly evolving certainty about where he was going, which turned out to be ever deeper into psychology and parapsychology until he struck up his life-long friendship with Dr. Osmond, that was inaugurated by the opening of the doors of perception.
Taking psychedelics and then writing about it favorably drove many literary people to fury. They denied that he, or anyone, could receive true enlightenment through a chemical. Meanwhile, Aldous became more and more serene, as testified by his wife Maria, who said that the formerly difficult genius had become a sweet saint.
During this same period, Timothy Leary, thirty years younger than Aldous, had been pursuing his own stellar career. His brilliance was a given, if his social behavior left something to be desired, as might be inferred from the fact that he was cashiered from the Academy at West Point for “conduct unbecoming”… something about co-eds on a train. Poor Tim endured shunning for a semester: the silent treatment from one and all. He rode over his vicissitudes, perhaps with some of his later aplomb. After climbing the academic ladder at other institutions, Leary became a behavioral psychologist (!), and wrote such a good text book about it that it is still in use.
For all his brains, Aldous refused to accept the gradual waning to cancer of his dear wife, Maria, who was literally everything to this quirky, sickly, unpredictable sage. He made light of her ills until reality crashed in on him, and devastated his world. His meditations on transcendence kept him aloft and productive. Timothy Leary also lost a wife, the mother of his two children. She committed suicide.
At the time of Maria Huxley’s drawn out and agonized death, Aldous had moved philosophically from Hinduism toward Mahayana Buddhism, and had become saturated in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. As Maria slowly perished, the heartbroken Aldous, tears streaming down his face, read softly into her ear from the Bardo Thodol to facilitate her transition. Aldous later quoted Shelly:
Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my heart?
Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here
They have departed, thou shouldst now depart.
Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert and Ralph Metzner later elevated the Tibetan Book of the Dead into a sort of text book for the LSD experience. They called their book, The Psychedelic Experience, and dedicated it to… Aldous Huxley.
By 1955, vast amounts of LSD were available in America, thanks to Captain Al Hubbard and the CIA. Aldous had his first LSD experience and was able to remember at long last his mother’s death when he was a child, and to access his long-buried feelings, and to grieve for her. He experienced LSD several times in 1955 and ’56 before coming to the conclusion that when it comes to psychedelics, less is more, reflecting that once a year was plenty to provide an intelligent person with fodder for contemplation and self-improvement. When the LSD psychiatrists began to flourish, providing LSD sessions to whomsoever had a hundred bucks, Huxley was incensed at the irresponsibility and materialism of it. Later he came down four-square against the growth of the so-called “drug culture”… but by then it was too late. It was also too ironic, as Aldous Huxley’s own two revelatory books, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, had kicked-off general interest in the subject. As he back-pedalled and became more and more conservative, Aldous Huxley found himself in the uncomfortable, not to say “absurd” position of being at the center of the international media cyclone which was, as usual, more hysterical than thoughtful, and more hip-shot opinionated than informed.
Aldous Huxley gradually became close to Laura Archera, a family friend, therapist, and concert violinist who had been Maria’s intimate friend. In the course of a mescaline session monitored by Laura in 1956, Huxley became saturated in the Vedanta dictum that there is no difference between the subject and the object; and, to the music of Bach’s 4th Brandenburg Concerto, the idea for his final book, Island, was born. This was to become the visionary template upon which the Merry Cricket, John Griggs, wanted to found his Utopian community, and which vision was corrupted by the venal needs of Dr. Timothy Leary. As for Aldous and Laura; they were married in the Drive-In Wedding Chapel in Yuma, Arizona, and lived happily ever after, which truly didn’t last all that long.
Aldous Huxley had one of the most beautiful and mellifluous of speaking voices. One time in the restaurant of the Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan, home of the famous Round Table, Aldous was dining with some friends when he was seized by the topic of conversation, and took off, ex tempore, composing and delivering an essay on the spot. Talk at the other tables fell off to silence as Aldous developed his thesis. When he was done, the entire room erupted in applause. By 1960 Aldous Huxley had received the diagnosis of cancer of the tongue. Surgery would end his career as a lecturer, and he refused the knife. Meanwhile, Aldous was struggling with the Island utopian novel project, which he couldn’t get to “behave”. He was also booked for lecture series at several universities, and in October of 1960 he found himself lecturing to 1500 people at MIT on the subject of What a Piece of Work is Man. Over from Harvard in the audience was a new professor from the Psychology Department, Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary and Huxley and Osmond all met the next day.
It’s startling to learn that when Humphrey Osmond and Aldous Huxley compared notes after first conversing with Dr. Timothy Leary, they both thought that he was remarkably square! This is quite an insight, for when I met Dr. Leary myself some five or so years later, I, too, regarded him as a bit fusty, which academic cobwebbiness he was rapidly dissolving until he became the now and happening creature we all love to remember. As I think of it, I suppose that psychedelic seasoning brought out a natural, perhaps Irish, talent in Tim to channel personalities. I saw him be Jean LaFitte, a dumb tourist, Dr. Feelgood, Thomas Jefferson, good-time Charlie, etc., etc., etc. all played to perfection. Will the real Timothy Leary please stand up? Come to think of it, Aldous Huxley insistently described human beings as “amphibians” inhabiting differing media and environments, not necessarily mutually congenial. Too bad he didn’t live long enough to appreciate Tim’s bravura manifestation of his idea. Also too bad that Tim was so impetuous and headlong that he failed to apprehend the deep gravitas of Aldous Huxley, much less reflect it.
Serendipity was in play. Aldous Huxley’s lecture and meeting with Timothy Leary happened just as Leary, Richard Alpert (Baba Ram Dass), and Ralph Metzner were beginning their psychedelic investigations with psylocibin “magic” mushrooms. Aldous was folded right in to this commencement, along with Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg and the whole suite of what would emerge as the leaders of the Psychedelic Movement.
The topography of what was said between Timothy Leary and Aldous Huxley remains sketchy, especially since some of the dialogue was reported later, from memory, by Leary, and sounds not much like Huxley. We can know that Aldous counselled Tim to be restrained and conservative in his approach, because, as he warned, the Academic Establishment would view poorly encroachment upon its territory of being the official agents of enlightenment, as happened. “Don’t cock a snook at Authority,” urged Aldous, to the foremost snook cocker of the 20th Century.
Aldous returned to his Hollywood home, which promptly burned to the ground, consumng his priceless library and generations of manuscripts, the first instance, if one were moved to see it that way, of Shiva in conjunction with Timothy Leary. Aldous saved only the manuscript of Island, and Laura saved only her priceless Guarnieri violin. Everything else went up in flames except the firewood stacked in the driveway.
Aldous Huxley continued as ever to perservere in the face of dire vicissitudes, and completed Island. His cancer returned and slowly killed him. He died on November 22, 1963, the day JFK was shot. He died on a double dose of LSD.
Timothy Leary pursued his demons, or they pursued him, as follows as a portion of the tempus fugitive saga.
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