Question #23 ~ The End of an Era?

by Hunter S. Thompson

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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Question #23 ~ The End of an Era?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 28, 2005 8:27 am

Pg. 178…What I refer to as the Leary passage. Hunter laments the ending of the Sixties. He seems to feel that Leary had a hand in that. What is your interpretation of this passage?

“Indeed. But what is sane? Especially here in “our own country”—in this doomstruck era of Nixon. We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the Sixties. Uppers are going out of style. This was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him too seriously. After West Point and the Priesthood, LSD must have seemed entirely logical to him…but there is not much satisfaction in knowing that he blew it very badly for himself, because he took too many others down with him.

Not that they didn’t deserve it: No doubt they all Got What Was Coming To Them. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create…a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.”
Last edited by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas on Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby JD101 » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:14 am

Hmmm....... Hunter in a nihilistic mood. Infinitum nihil, indeed.

Plus I think he was pissed at Leary. Their outlooks on how to deal with life, though both involved heavy amounts of drugs, were polar opposites.

Leary wanted to tune in and drop out (of society) He wanted to create a new utopia. Hunter, I think, was more inclined to take the bull by the horn and wrestle him to the ground. He was a fighter and would never consider dropping out. When he ran for Sheriff on the Freak Power ticket... he was dead serious.
I don't think he had much respect for Leary's philosophies because it ignored the "grim meat-hook realities" that Hunter saw all around him.

Hunter’s drugs brought reality into focus for him. Interesting that he laments the decline of uppers. I always called them the ‘go fast’ drugs. Leary's drugs were hallucinogens which put a veil of un-reality over the user’s mind. Even though HST used LSD, it was never for ‘consciousness expansion’. I’m not sure what he used it for, but it wasn’t for ‘consciousness expansion’ in the Leary sense. Maybe he just like the pretty colors and trails.

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Unread postby Sands » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:29 am

'a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers'

Well, I sure know a few of those. I sometimes even wonder if I'm one of them :-/ And Leary did have a hand in that - my older brother, who was a big influence on me and many of my friends, was a big follower of Leary.

I was certainly one of the 'drop-out' people then. These days I'm still not a political activist, but I'm not too sure where exactly I do stand. I certainly don't see acid as a negative thing in itself, I gained a lot from taking it, but I don't think I was expecting to find God, or 'the answer to life, the universe and everything'. I felt it did show me a clearer view of reality, good and bad.

I don't have much respect for Leary now, and I can certainly understand what Hunter's saying. But I think the real problem is the fact that so many people blindly follow leaders. Who those leaders are is almost irrelevant. If only people would think for themselves.
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Re: Question #23 ~ The End of an Era?

Unread postby QueenofKings » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:29 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote: But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create…a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.”


What I think Hunter is referring to here is the lack of enlightenment that was going on. Leary was all into "Turn on, Tune off, Drop out." A kind of take acid for acid's sake. Don't be part of the mainstream. Forget about the rest of the world.
But that's essentially an unenlightened view from my perspective. There is no tranformative journey going on there, just an empty promise that somehow something cool is going to happen somehow. No meeting of the minds for creative energy, bettering the planet, creating art, music, literary works, etc. So a lot of people who never should have taken LSD in the first place did, and the fallout was bad trips, ripoffs, freak outs, unwanted pregnancies, OD's, and a whole lot of lost disillusioned young people with no clue what to do with their lives.
No one is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel. If everyone "drops out" then nobody is doing anything of substance. And what about when you have to go back out into "the real world"? Because eventually everyone had to. So in the 70s we wound up with a whole generation of people self-medicating just to survive in the real world and be able to keep taking it day after day. That's the part I was witness to -- the fallout. And looking back on that time (the end of the 70s and the early 80s), it was the most self-serving, vapid, superficial time in my life. But I had a whole village of idiots doing that along with me. Nobody won the war. And in the end, everyone had to come down.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:05 am

I read in one of Hunter's letters (and I don't have my books here at work :banghead: ) that he considered himself part of The Movement not part of the Acid Culture. My take on it was similar to what you all have said. Leary's movement was not about politics as the early 60's had been but about personal "conciousness expansion". QofK I agree that the fallout was the later part of the 70's, the "failed seekers."
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Unread postby lumineuse » Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:14 am

Wow, this is depressing. Very well put, QofK. I only wish I hadn't lived it.
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Unread postby luvdepp » Wed Sep 28, 2005 10:29 am

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:I read in one of Hunter's letters (and I don't have my books here at work :banghead: ) that he considered himself part of The Movement not part of the Acid Culture. My take on it was similar to what you all have said. Leary's movement was not about politics as the early 60's had been but about personal "conciousness expansion". QofK I agree that the fallout was the later part of the 70's, the "failed seekers."

I agree DITHOT. Leary was all about leaving the world behind, going into yourself. I think Hunter was more interested in finding a solution to the problems he saw in the world. He wanted to do something to make a difference, to make people aware. Leary just wanted to forget it all and tune out. I agree too that the 70's were wasted on people still wanting a taste of the 60's but realizing that they had to live in the real world and the only way they could cope with that was by trying to capture that "tuned out" feeling left over from the 60's. I graduated high school in 76 and as a young adult in the late 70's and early 80's was only interested in making money and partying. Self-serving and vapid is a good way to describe those times QofK.
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Unread postby Endora » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:10 pm

Not that they didn’t deserve it: No doubt they all Got What Was Coming To Them. All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours, too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped to create…a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody—or at least some force—is tending the Light at the end of the tunnel.”


A couple of things (or more) here:

Firstly, QofK, I think you're right about Hunter's more robust approach. He wasn't one to let things just happen to him, much more proactive, so Leary must have been just what he disliked. I do think he saw value in the LSD experience, but not in the sense that it was an end in itself. Sands, looks like you think this way.
Secondly, again it looks like Hunter has seen what I think of as The Fear, the realisation that this is it, there is no greater guidance, no force tending the guiding light. We've mentioned karma on this idea before. Dharma bum mentioned it much earlier.
Finally, I always think Hunter was someone who didn't expect something for nothing, and that's what he saw in the acid generation he describes. Am I right on this? What was his upbringing like, for example?
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:29 pm

Endora wrote: Finally, I always think Hunter was someone who didn't expect something for nothing, and that's what he saw in the acid generation he describes. Am I right on this? What was his upbringing like, for example?


Endora, as you and others have said, Hunter was one to get out there and shake things up, make things happen. I'm not sure it was the acid culture initially looking for something for nothing but more a matter of turning inward and becoming introspective instead of looking outward to take on the ills of society and create change. Having been born in the 30's, I would imagine he certainly would have been influenced by the Depression Era. As far as his upbringing, from what I have read he was a rebel from the word go.
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Unread postby Raven » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:31 pm

Wow, this is really heavy stuff here ladies....

so I am going to weight in here with what I think I read.

I think that Hunter saw Leary as a leader when the acid thing started happening. Hunter in FaLiLV talks about eating whatever came down the street, (sorry my book is gone). Hunter got wrapped up in the freaks and drugs in the beginning, then when reality set in (no one is doing nothing but drugs) I believe Hunter saw the light as it were and realized that Leary was not talking to Hunter about doing something, but doing nothing "dropping out" . Hunter found out the guy he put on a pedestal was a drop out like alot of freaks on the street. So like alot of us when we have realized our idol is just human, he got angry at Leary.

I don't blame Hunter for being mad at the acid freaks, I think he saw waste of human power instead of strength.

I cannot talk about taking acid as it was not the drug of choice in the early 70's when I graduated. Pot was your main drag then and you could get very little done when smoking it. Much less help change a world.

my :twocents:

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:34 pm

Raven wrote: I don't blame Hunter for being mad at the acid freaks, I think he saw waste of human power instead of strength.

I cannot talk about taking acid as it was not the drug of choice in the early 70's when I graduated. Pot was your main drag then and you could get very little done when smoking it. Much less help change a world.


A waste of human power...good way to put that Raven. Changing the world? Well, even on a good day that's a big task! :eyebrow:
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Unread postby Sands » Wed Sep 28, 2005 12:44 pm

I remember having this discussion a lot in the late 60's/early 70's. There were definitely two camps, the political activists and the drop-outs. And the main argument was this: Do you put society right first, then deal with the luxury of 'consciousness expansion', or do you need the consciousness expansion first and that will automatically change society for the better?

I think both sides ultimately had the same aim - a better world - it wasn't that the drop-outs were just selfish. It's just that they didn't think real fundamental change on the outside was possible without a fundamental change in people's innermost thinking and view of the world. And I have to say I still tend to think that.

Maybe the real answer is that you need both. And also that both approaches can be used in bad ways as well as good.
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Unread postby Liz » Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:10 pm

Heavy is an understatement, Raven. I'm not well-versed in the area of LSD as to it's original purpose. I was too young and too sheltered during the 60's and early 70's. So it is hard for me to comment. I'm enjoying reading all of yours, though. But based on what you are saying about Leary's message and the point of view back then as so eloquently put by Sands, I'm thinking that the premise was a good one--to change the people's innermost thinking. The thing is that those that were taking it, were already there. I think they needed to give it to some of our politicians. :lol: Imagine Nixon on acid.

I agree with what you've all said about Hunter. That he was all about action. And I think he was frustrated that he was fighting a losing battle, that he didn't have enough warriors on his side, and that they were tuning out. But Hunter was taking it, too. He just happened to be one of the few that could do both. He had amazing constitution that he could withstand all that drug use/abuse for so long and still be functional. Of course, we all know he went beyond functional.
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Unread postby JD101 » Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:45 pm

I think that Hunter saw Leary as a leader when the acid thing started happening. Hunter in FaLiLV talks about eating whatever came down the street, (sorry my book is gone). Hunter got wrapped up in the freaks and drugs in the beginning, then when reality set in (no one is doing nothing but drugs) I believe Hunter saw the light as it were and realized that Leary was not talking to Hunter about doing something, but doing nothing "dropping out" . Hunter found out the guy he put on a pedestal was a drop out like alot of freaks on the street. So like alot of us when we have realized our idol is just human, he got angry at Leary.


Raven, do you remember where you read about this?

Ok, this is off the top of my head because I've been searching around my room and I can't find anything...

I was under the impression that they were peers. I didn't think Leary was ever an idol of Thompson's. I seem to remember reading (gah... somewhere!) that there was real personal anamosity between HST and Leary.

I wish I could find my source, I've read so much stuff about Thompson lately...I can't remember where I read this to verify it... maybe someone else can.
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Unread postby lumineuse » Wed Sep 28, 2005 3:13 pm

Sands wrote:I remember having this discussion a lot in the late 60's/early 70's. There were definitely two camps, the political activists and the drop-outs. And the main argument was this: Do you put society right first, then deal with the luxury of 'consciousness expansion', or do you need the consciousness expansion first and that will automatically change society for the better?

I think both sides ultimately had the same aim - a better world - it wasn't that the drop-outs were just selfish. It's just that they didn't think real fundamental change on the outside was possible without a fundamental change in people's innermost thinking and view of the world. And I have to say I still tend to think that.

Maybe the real answer is that you need both. And also that both approaches can be used in bad ways as well as good.


There is a really interesting essay on this very topic in The Great Shark Hunt.
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