Journalist Don Lattin

Veteran journalist Don Lattin writes in his new memoir that he spent years “worshiping at the altar of drugs and alcohol” — not the type of devotion you might expect from a religion writer. The book “Distilled Spirits” intertwines Lattin’s own story with biographical sketches of three others who mixed spiritual seeking with mind-altering substances: “Brave New World” author Aldous Huxley, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, and philosopher Gerald Heard. Lattin joins us in the studio.

LSD Research (YouTube)

Find out more about Don Lattin and his book "The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age in America" at his website.

Don Lattin, author, freelance journalist and former religion writer for the San Francisco Chronicle; and writer of his latest book "Distilled Spirits: Getting High, then Sober, with a Famous Writer, a Forgotten Philosopher and a Hopeless Drunk"

  • Rhet

    Religion is escapism from reality, and so are drugs. Both religion and drugs sell something that ultimately fails to deliver.

  • MikeW

    Check out:
    Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream

    Stevens has written a gripping account of the use and abuse of mind-altering drugs in recent decades. He explains the fascination of mescaline and psilocybin for psychologists interested in behaviorial change. He documents the insidious role of the CIA in testing mind-control drugs. He traces the convoluted path of Timothy Leary from his position as research psychologist at Harvard to his role as guru advocating the use of LSD to achieve spiritual utopia. He descibes the outwardly placid social climate of the 1950s, and vividly contrasts the dramatic upheavals of the 60s, sketching pulsing portraits of Allen Ginsberg, Aldous Huxley, and Jack Kerouac. Packed with facts, this is social history at its most compelling.

  • don

    I am the creative director for a $B company and believe I owe much of my success to my many LSD experiences. There is a link between creativity and the use of LSD. Steve Jobs, for example, was verbose in giving credit to his acid experimentation during formative years.

  • guest

    by the time i came along, LSD was illegal and the street quality was hardly reliable. my first experience happened on my 13th birthday in 1974. my “friend” spiked my soda and then told me after i consumed it. that was NOT fun. 10 hours later, i finally felt OK. the next time was another spiking, this time in a candy bar, the next year. at least i knew what was happening once the drug took hold, so i didn’t have too bad a time. still, it blew a HOLE in my ability to trust “friends,” as you can well imagine. of the various other times i’ve taken a “mind-altering” drug the only time i came close to what you’ve been discussing was when i took mescaline — and i had wanted to — e.g., i was not drugged unknowingly. THAT changed my life and i became almost a female castenada, if you will.

  • Sunnyvale Dave

    Lsd opened my mind to such a Degree that even when I am sober I am open to different perspectives in business, social, and general life

  • Michael in Berkeley

    I really appreciate the important point that was made, “What do we do with the ‘enlightened’ experience after we’ve had it?” There is no one path that works for everyone, but there are many paths. What seems to create separation between people is the thought that there is one path for everyone. I’m a Jewbu who’s dabbled with Hinduism. Drugs didn’t work for me. I had an enlightened experience with a Guru. My heart was opened. Then there was the day after. But I knew from that point forward that a loving Truth exists within me and others. As I remember Sylvia Boorstein saying, “it’s an inside job”, I’ve got to do the work day to day. For me the dualistic views of “conversion-oriented” believers around any path to enlightenment is painful, because I think the experience of “God” shared by us all is quite the same.

  • Peter

    I first took LSD and mescaline 43 years ago, and unlike Don Lattin never fell into cocaine or speed, alcohol abuse or whatever. I have continued to use psychedelics in moderation over the years… never became a hippie or deadhead or any other cliche. And never became any kind of victim.
    The main message of these materials was apparent on the first trips but I still like to revisit those states from time to time.
    These days I take LSD on average once every 10 years or so. I do prefer the “lighter” materials these days; such as MDMA and its more recent analogs, or the 2C series (psychedelics developed by Alexander Shulgin). In moderation and in the appropriate situations. I still find that I often reach “spiritual” states, but I also enjoy these materials for their pure pleasure and feel no guilt about that. I have a number of friends of my age who are the same… we survived the 60s,70s and 80s drug-wise and continue to occasionally imbibe psychedelics with good effect. And though I have never taken ayahuasca, some of my friends now consider it the highest point of their spiritual lives.

  • Guest

    I’m hearing so much about the benefits people experience with psychedelics and also about the benefits of sobriety. I’m curious about your thoughts on where the line between benefits and harm from altered states lies.

  • Ken Cope

    I was surprised to hear LSD pioneer Dr. Oscar Janiger claim he was an atheist, despite the nearly universal reports of “a feeling of oneness with the universe” from the subjects of his research in the fifties and sixties, work that led to antidepressants and an understanding of a link between emotions and brain chemistry. “Why should that experience say more about the nature of reality, than it does about the nature of the way the brain works?”

  • Jennifer Palumbo

    Thanks for taking my call. My call was dropped before I could ask my question regarding the connection between this spirituality and that of the Trancendentalism.

    I did call to say that similar to the experiences of people stopping drinking, I did have an epiphany that led to me changing my relationship with food and its abuse. After that trip, I started running and eating much differently. I lost a lot of weight and maintained it for many years.

  • Mona

    Can you help someone who is been drinking for 40+years?

  • Karen S.

    Kids today are not getting enlightened with psychodelics. They are dying. Glib conversations about making sure you are in safe place whilst experimenting with your mental health are bizaare. Mr. Latting is also cavalier in his treatment of AAs 12th tradition was cavalier as well.

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