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Friday, February 9, 2024

New book about psychedelic history

R. Michael Johnson sent me a note about a new book that may interest sombunall of you, so I am passing this on:

"FYI: Benjamin Breen, History prof, who is really good on drugs in history, has a book out sombunall RAW fans would be interested in. I've exchanged a few emails with this guy; he's really interesting. His new book is Tripping On Utopia, and perhaps the main thesis is Gregory Bateson, Margaret Mead, Lilly and not Boomers - were interested in psychedelics in the 1930s and 40s. I mean, it looks like Margaret Mead was an earlier "psychedelics expert" way before Leary. What if Mead had gone public about how transcendent psychedelics could be? She wanted to, but decided not to. Why?

"I'm still waiting in the HOLDS line at the library to read it. He said he read a lot about RAW via the Leary stuff and I'm not sure how much RAW content is in it until I get hold of it. 

"My guess is this is twice-removed deeper than all the CIA-LSD-hippies/academics/infiltration narrative. Like, Lee and Shlain's Acid Dreams is quaint research to this guy." 

I also have the book on hold at my local library in the Cleveland area, so perhaps I may know more soon.

Here is the publisher's page for Tripping On Utopia.  Note that the "Lilly" is Michael's note is John Lilly, and Cary Grant also is mentioned.

Benjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at the University of  California at Santa CruzHere is Professor Breen's Substack newsletter.  It looks very interesting. And you can also look at his website.  The book was reviewed in the New York Times a few weeks ago. 


Brian Dean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Dean said...

Second thoughts - think I'll delete that comment I posted earlier, as I probably should get permission before quoting more than a brief para or so from a newly published book.

Just to say that I didn't see any references to RAW in Breen's book (though there's a lot of material on Leary).

chad said...

Great rec, thank you Michael. It is now on my library hold list as well.

Jesse said...

I enjoyed the book very much, though I should note that Nora Bateson has challenged its accuracy on some points. I wrote a brief review a while back that will appear in an upcoming issue of Reason.

Lilly comes off *very* poorly.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I will link to Jesse's review when it becomes available online.

Marginal Revolution -- a blog that probably has 1000 times the readership of this one -- often runs sizable quotes from new books in blog posts that are obviously aimed at persuading people to read the book. So I think Brian's use of the quote is fair, although I've let him make his decision on whether his original comment should stand. If he had decided otherwise, I would have backed him up.