Harvard Psychonauts

Publication Year: 
2010

Image retrieved from www.achievement.org on March 16th, 2014.

[Andy] Weil met separately with Professor Alpert. The answer was still the same. No, he could not participate in the experiments at the Center for Research in Personality. They had made an agreement with the university not to use undergraduate subjects in their research. To Weil, the meeting with Alpert had a very different feel than the get-together with Leary. Weil found Alpert uncomfortable to be around. Leary was a charmer. He was easygoing. Alpert was intense. He seemed to wrapped up in the role of the Harvard professor.
Weil and Winston were persistent. They weren't able to obtain their own psilocybin pills, but they did manage to get a supply of mescaline, a psychedelic drug synthesized from the peyote cactus. Weil wrote to Huxley, who suggested they try a company called Delta Chemical. Weil obtained some Harvard stationery and got to work. He couldn't fool the folks at Delta, who required too much official paperwork, but Weil found another company with looser drug-procurement procedures.
Once they got the drugs, Weil, Wintston, and some other undergraduates started their own experiments in Claverly Hall. They were basically doing the same thing Leary was doing over at the Center for Personality Research, They'd take the drugs and write up reports about their experiences. Then they'd sit around and discuss them. Weil emerged as a leader of the little drug ring operating out of cleverly Hall. He collected about thirty reports on undergraduate mescaline trips. He didn't see the experiences as just an excuse to get high. He wasn’t rebelling against any thing. He was just curious, eager to understand what was going on inside his own grain.
Not much happened the first time he took mescaline. He was apprehensive. He'd later see that he was unconsciously resisting the drug. He didn’t feel much of any thing, and that disappointed him. He'd wanted to experience all the visual images he'd read about in those wild accounts of other mescaline eaters. l That's was really fascinated him, but he didn't get any of that. On his second trip, he did have a more powerful emotional experience. Not hallucinations, but a kind of spiritual transcendence, it was a kind of serene feeling of connection with something higher. Everything just felt right—like he was seeing into the essence of things. But there was also something frightening about the experience. Andy was reluctant to just go with the flow. He didn't dare up the dose and go deeper. He could see that having any more of these insights might convince him that Harvard was a complete waste of time.
Weil was a calculating, ambitious young man. He had the next ten years of his life all mapped out. He'd later see that he'd somehow put the psychedelic experience in the box. He stopped experimenting with drugs. If he hadn't, he might have dropped out of school. Who knows what would have happened to him?
Meanwhile, Ronnie Winston had begun his own adventure with Richard Alpert. They'd met at a party. Ronnie was there with a girl Alpert knew, and the student and the professor started talking. Alpert invited Ronnie out to lunch, then for a ride in his airplane. They both came from wealthy East Coast families and had much in common. Alpert became infatuated with the young student. Ronnie was a brilliant, romantic-looking figure. He drove a Jaguar. He was a liberal arts student but had this idea for a project over at MIT involving solid rocket fuel. They didn't have sex, but they developed a kind of intimate friendship. Alpert shared some of his psilocyin with Winston. In Alpert's mind, Ronnie was a social friend—not a research subject—so he wasn't violating his agreement to keep undergraduates out of the psilocybin project.
Ronnie had made it into the inner circle around Leary and Alpert. Andy had not. At one point, Leary and Alpert had a conversation about Andy Weil. They didn't trust him. Alpert didn't like him. He was up to something. He had another agenda. They noticed that Weil had started covering the arts for the Harvard Crimson, the school newspaper. Maybe that was it. Maybe Weil was trying to infiltrate the project and write an expose.
Weil saw a double standard in Alpert's embrace of Ronnie Winston. It was obvious that some undergraduates—and not just Ronnie—were being brought into the fold. Why not Andy? What was wrong with him? Ronnie had been a good friend. He'd even been Weil's guide during their mescaline sessions in Claverly Hall. But that friendship ended when Winston started hanging out with Alpert.
Weil would find a way to get back at Richard Alpert and, in the process, put an end to his relationship with Ronnie Winston. Weil was determined to bring down the Harvard Psilocybin project, and he would take on the assignment with the seal of a jilted lover.

pp. 58-60 The Harvard Psychedelic Club by Don Lattin (2010)

andy Weil
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