In my December 3, 2018, comments preceding the publication on this blog of the second appendix to my 1998 history thesis, which contains the full text of Nathan Kline’s 1961 New York Times review of Adelle Davis’ gushing promotion of LSD as the breakthrough route to world peace and human salvation, I mentioned Jeffrey Lieberman.
As if to prove my prescience, Lieberman has now (on December 26th) published a review of Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us about Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression and Transcendence.
Pollan’s book and Lieberman’s review are so eerily reminiscent of Davis’ book and Kline’s review, respectively, as to suggest that we have passed through a time warp and landed back in 1961, perhaps to enter once again upon a decade of violent and phenomenal political, social and cultural upheaval.
Both Pollan, in How to Change..., and Davis (as Jane Dunlap), in Exploring Inner Space..., did their level best to overtly profess the proper obeisance to scientific authority, while covertly pushing the psychedelic experience as a holy grail for all humanity. Both Kline, in 1961, and Lieberman, in 2018, condescended to praise the books they reviewed with the serious caveat that their own elite class is alone qualified to evaluate and control the experience and utility of psychedelics.
The parallels extend to some finer details. Both Adelle Davis and Michael Pollan had previously been well known for writing on the subject of nutrition. Both Nathan Kline and Jeffrey Lieberman were leading voices for the psychiatric guild of their time, and they both professed to be authorities who were under-recognized in the popular books.
Above all else, everyone (both authors, both reviewers) seem to implicitly believe that such ultimate human issues as consciousness, dying, addiction, depression and transcendence can be logically explored and eventually resolved through Western science and technological medicine. This is the fundamental error of our culture. It is an error, as the experience of Thomas Insel at the National Institute of Mental Health rather tragically highlights, that continues to waste much treasure and many lives.
Alienating the study of the mind and the healing of mentally caused ills from religion enabled the Twentieth Century’s construction of a high road to a black gate and a hot mushroom cloud. We should not let 1945 happen again, and even the flowers and music of 1967 didn’t make it worthwhile.