From 1960 to 1967 I was director of research projects at Harvard University and Millbrook, New York which studied the effects of brain-change drugs. During this period a talented group of psychologists and philosophers on our staff ran guided "trips" for over 3000 volunteers. These projects won world-wide recognition as centers for consciousness alteration and exploration of new dimensions of the mind.
Our headquarters at Harvard and Millbrook were regularly visited by people interested in expanding their intelligence -poets and writers like Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olsen, Jack Kerouac, Robert Lovell; musicians like "The Grateful Dead," Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Jim Morrison; philosophers like Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler, Alan Watts; swamis, gurus, mystics, psychics by the troops. Scores of scientists from top universities. And occasionally steely-eyed experts, from government and military centers also participated.
It was not until the Freedom of Information Act of the Carter administration that we learned that the CIA had spent 25 million dollars on brain-change drugs, and that the U.S. Army at Edgewater Arsenal in Maryland had given LSD and stronger psychedelic drugs to over 7000 unwitting, uninformed enlisted men.
The most fascinating and important of these hundreds of visitors showed up in the Spring of 1962. I was sitting in my office at Harvard University one morning when I looked up to see a woman leaning against the door post, hip tilted provocatively, studying me with a bold stare. She appeared to be in her late thirties. Good looking. Flamboyant eye- brows, piercing green-blue eyes, fine-boned face. Amused, arrogant, aristocratic. "Dr. Leary," she said cooly,"I've got to talk to you."
She took a few steps forward and held out her hand. "I'm Mary Pinchot. I've come from Washington to discuss something very important. I want to learn how to run an LSD session."
"That's our specialty here. Would you like to tell me what you have in mind?"
"I have this friend who's a very important man. He's impressed by what I've told him about my own LSD experiences and what other people have told him. He wants to try it himself. So I'm here to learn how to do it. I mean. I don't want to goof up or something."
"Why don't you have your important friend come here with you to look over our project for a couple of days. Then if it makes sense to all concerned, we'll run a session for him."
"Out of the question. My friend is a public figure. It's just not possible."
"People involved in power usually don't make the best subjects."
"Don't you think that if a powerful person were to turn on with his wife or girlfriend it would be good for the world?"
"Nothing that involves brain-change is certain. But in general we believe that for anyone who's reasonably healthy and happy, the intelligent thing to do is to take advantage of the multiple realities available to the human brain."
"Do you think that the world would be a better place if men in power had LSD experiences?"
"Look at the world," I said,"Nuclear bombs proliferating. More and more countries run by military dictators. No political creativity. It's time to try something, anything new and promising."
I offered her some California sherry from a half gallon jug, but she made a cute little face and invited me out for champagne. She continued asking me questions as we sat in the cocktail lounge.
Then I saw her face go tense.
"You poor innocent thing," she murmured. "You have no idea what you've gotten into. You don't really understand what's happening in Washington with drugs, do you?"
"We've heard some rumors about the military," I said.
"It's time you learned more. The guys who run things- I mean the guys who really run things in Washington- are very interested in psychology, and drugs in particular. These people play hardball, Timothy. They want to use drugs for warfare, for espionage, for brainwashing, for control."
"Yes," I said. "We've heard about that."
"But there are people like me who want to use drugs for peace, not for war, to make people's lives better. Will you help us?"
"I told you. Teach us how to run sessions, use drugs to do good." I felt uneasy. There was something calculated about Mary, that tough hit you get from people who live in the hard political world.
I asked once again, "Who are these friends of yours who want to use drugs for peace?"
"Women," she said laughing. "Washington, like any other capital city in the world, is run by men. These men conspiring for power can only be changed by women. And you're going to help us."
I drove Mary to the airport the next day and loaded her with books and papers about our research.
"I don't think your quite ready to start running sessions," I told her. "I agree. I'll be back soon for more practice. And don't forget," she said, "The only hope for the world is intelligent women."
The next contact with Mary Pinchot, my mysterious visitor from Washington, came about six months later. She phoned me from across the river in Boston. "Can you meet me right away in Room 717, Ritz Hotel?"
Enchanting as before, she motioned to a silver ice bucket with a bottle of Dom Perignon tilting out. "I'm here to celebrate." she said. I twisted the bottle to make the cork pop gently "Your hush hush love affair is going well?"
"Oh yes, everything is going beautifully. On all fronts in fact. I can't give details, of course. But top people in Washington are turning on. You'd be amazed at the sophistication of some of our leaders. And their wives. We've gotten a little group together, people who are interested in learning how to turn on. "Really, I thought politicians were to power-oriented."
"You must realize, implausible as it may seem, there are a lot of very smart people in Washington. Especially now with this administration. Power is important to them. And these drugs do give a certain power. That's what it's all about. Freeing the mind."
She held out her glass for more champagne."Until very recently control of American consciousness was a simple matter for the guys in charge. The schools instilled docility. The radio and TV networks poured out conformity."
"No doubt about it." I agreed.
"You may not know that dissident organizations in academia are also controlled. The CIA creates the radical journals and student organizations and runs them with deep-cover agents."
"Oh come on, Mary." I said. "That sounds pretty paranoid to me."
Mary sipped at her glass and shook her head."I hate to be the one to break the news to you. Don't you know what these guys are most interested in right now?"
"Drugs, I suppose."
"You got it. A few years ago they became absolutely obsessed with the notion that the Soviets and the Chinese were persuading our POWs in Korea to defect by brainwashing them with LSD and mescaline."
"That's certainly possible. With what we've discovered about set and setting, we know that almost anyone's mind can be changed in any direction."
"With a minimum of information about the subject's personal life and two or three LSD sessions, you could get the most conventional person to do outrageous things."
"Suppose the person wanted to be brainwashed in a certain direction...wanted to change himself?"
"Easier yet. Our research is conclusive on this. Changing your mind, developing a new reality fix, is a simple and straight forward proposition. Of course altering your mind is one thing. Changing the outside world to conform to your new vision remains the difficult problem for us..."I struggled for a word. "Utopiates."
Mary clapped her hands together like a birthday girl. "Utopiates! Beautiful. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Make it a better world." She sat down next to me and held my hand.
"I told you the first time we met, I want to learn how to brainwash."
"That doesn't sound very ladylike."
At this she burst into laughter. "If I can teach the use of utopiates to the wives and mistresses of important people in our government then we can...well shit Timothy, don't you see what we can do?"
"We can do on a bigger scale what you are already doing with your students - use these drugs to free people. For peace, not war. We can turn on the cabinet. Turn on the Senate. The Supreme Court. Do I have to explain further?"
Her proposal was scary. But come to think of it, it was close to what we Harvardites in our session rooms, lazily architecturing hopeful futures, had spelled out as the goal of psychedelic research.
I looked at myself in the reflection of the windows: a forty-two-year-old man, being lured into a feminist plot to turn on the leaders of the United States government to the idea of world peace. She lay on the bed, pleased with herself, awaiting my reaction, knowing I was going to agree.
"Okay. What do you want from me? The drugs?"
"Just a little bit to get started. With our connections we'll be able to get all the supply we want. And all you need too. Mainly I want advice on how to run sessions. And how to handle any problems that come up."
We spent the next four hours on a cram course on psychedelic sessions. Set and setting. Centering. Room service brought more champagne and then dinner. I drove her to Logan to get a night plane back to Washington. The next day I mailed off a stack of session reports. Since she had sworn me to secrecy, I told no one but Michael Hollingshead, the British agent working on our staff.
A few weeks later another call came from Mary. Could I meet her at the Ritz? She sounded tense.
For the next few months I was too busy with my own problems to think much about Mary Pinchot. In May 1963 I got fired from Harvard because of the controversial drug project. Then a large research center we had established in Mexico got shut down; American pressure on the Mexican government.
The phone call from Mary Pinchot came a week after our return from Mexico. She was at the Boston airport. She could spend only the afternoon. We met at a seafood restaurant downtown.
"Oh, you reckless Irishman. You got yourself in trouble again. It's magnificent, these headlong cavalry charges of yours. Mais ce n'est pas la guerre."
"What'd I do wrong?"
"Publicity. I told you they'd let you do anything you want as long as you kept it quiet. The plan to set up psychedelic training centers around the country was ingenious from all sides. They would have infiltrated every chapter to get some of their people trained. But their not going to let CBS film you drugging people on a lovely Mexican beach. You could destroy both capitalism and socialism in one month with that sort of thing."
I was struck again by the brittleness this aristocratic woman had picked up from those stern-eyed business-suited WASPs who shuttle from home to office in limousines- the information brokers, editors, board members, executive branch officers- youngish men with oldish eyes (faces you used to see on the Harvard Square or in the Yale quad), initiated early into the Calvinist conspiracy, sworn to be forever reliable; working for Wild Bill Donovan in Zurich, for Allen Dulles in Washington, for Henry Luce as bureau chiefs and then shuffling from Newsweek to the Post, manipulators of secret documents, facts, rumors, estimates, arms inventories, stock margins, voting blocs, industrial secrets, gossip about the sexual and drug preferences of every member of Congress, trained to grab and maintain what they can, all loyal to the Protestant belief that the Planet Earth sucks.
"Never mind all that," said Mary, "while you've been goofing around, I've been working hard. My friends and I have been turning on some of the most important people in Washington. It's about time we had our own psychedelic cell on the Potomac, don't you think?"
"So you need more drugs? That's going to be a problem. My plans for chemical plants in Mexico got wiped out."
Mary laughed. "Oh that's no problem. I can give you a contact in England. They'll sell you everything you need. And if things go the way I hope," she said emphatically, "we'll be seeing lots of good drugs produced here at home."
I pressed her but she declined to say more.
Late in November 1963 a phone call came from Mary Pinchot. Her voice was tight-roping the wire of hysteria. She had rented a car at La Guardia and was somewhere in Millbrook. She didn't want to come to the estate. Could I meet her in the village?
Driving out the gate I saw a green Ford parked down Route 44. It followed me. I slowed down. It pulled up behind me. Mary. She climbed in beside me motioning me to drive on.
I turned down a side road through an unforgettable Autumn scene- golden fields, herds of fat, jet-black cows, trees turning technicolor, sky glaring indigo- with the bluest girl in the world next to me.
"It was all going so well." she said. "We had eight intelligent women turning on the most powerful men in Washington. And then we got found out. I was such a fool. I made a mistake in recruitment. A wife snitched on us. I'm scared." She burst into tears.
"You must be very careful now." she said. "Don't make any waves. No publicity. I'm afraid for you. I'm afraid for all of us."
"Mary." I said soothingly. "Let's go back to the Big House and relax and have some wine and maybe a hot bath and figure out what you should do."
"I know what you're thinking. But this is not paranoia. I've gotten mixed up in some dangerous matters. It's real. You've got to believe me." She glared at me. "Do you?"
"Yes I do." Her alarm was convincing me.
"Look. If I ever showed up here suddenly, could you hide me out for a while?"
"Good." Now drive me back to my car. I'll stay in touch. If I can."
As I watched her drive away, I wondered. She wasn't breaking any laws. What trouble could she be in?
The next call from Mary came the day after the assassination of Jack Kennedy. I had really been expecting it.
I could hardly understand her. She was either drugged or stunned with grief. "They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast. He was learning too much."
"Who? You mean Kennedy?" Long pause. Hysterical crying. I spoke reassuringly. She kept sobbing. "They'll cover everything up. I gotta come see you. I'm scared. I'm afraid. Be careful."
The line went dead. Her words kept repeating in my mind.
"They couldn't control him any more. He was changing too fast." I've never forgot those words.
In the months that followed I kept waiting for Mary to call back. I tried the Washington phone book for her number but she wasn't listed: not in Virginia or Maryland either.
My life was humming along. I got married and went on a round-the-world honeymoon. A few months later the marriage broke up. In my yearning for an ally, a friend, a woman, I found myself thinking a lot about Mary Pinchot.
Directory assistance in Washington,D.C. had numbers for several Pinchots but none for Mary. Then I remembered that she was a Vassar graduate and phoned the alumni office in Poughkeepsie. The cheery voice of the secretary became guarded when I asked for the address of Mary Pinchot.
"Mary Pinchot?" A long pause. "The person about whom you were asking...ah, her married name is Meyer. But I'm sorry to say that she is, ah, deceased. Sometime last fall, I believe."
"I've been out of the country. I didn't know."
"Thank you for calling." said the alumni secretary.
In shock I climbed out a third-floor window and up the steep copper roof of the Big House. There I leaned back against a chimney and tried to think things over. Michael Hollingshead, who sensed my malaise, scrambled up to join me, carrying two beers. When I told him about Mary, he brushed away a tear.
"I wonder what happened." I said.
"Next time we go to New York, let's see what we could find out," said Michael.
So off we went, Michael and I, down the Hudson to New York to meet the light-artists and sound wizards who were popping up on the Lower East Side. And to find out what happened to Mary Pinchot Meyer.
I cabbed over to Van Wolfe's apartment, drank a beer, and asked him if he could get any material on Mary Pinchot Meyer. He made a phone call to a friend who worked on the Times. An hour later a messenger was at the door with a manila envelope full of clippings, and WHAM- there was Mary's picture, the pert chin and nose, the deep intense eyes. Above, the headline read:
WOMAN PAINTER SHOT AND KILLED ON CANAL TOWPATH IN CAPITAL MRS. MARY PINCHOT MEYER WAS A FRIEND OF MRS. KENNEDY SUSPECT IS ARRAIGNED
Mary had been shot twice in the left temple and once in the chest at 12:45 in the afternoon of October 13, 1964 as she walked along the Old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath in Georgetown. A friend told reporters that Mary sometimes walked there with her close friend Jacqueline Kennedy.
Mary's brother-in-law, Benjamin C. Bradlee, Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, identified her body. Ben Bradlee was described as having been an intimate of the late President Kennedy. The article also mentioned Mary's ex-husband, Cord Meyer,Jr., former leader of the American Veterans Committee and the World Federalists, now a government employee, position and agency not specified. Police said that the motive was apparently robbery or assault. Her purse was found by Ben Bradlee in her home. The suspect, a black male, was being held without bail.
My head was spinning with ominous thoughts. A close friend of the Kennedy family had been murdered in broad daylight with no apparent motive. And there had been so little publicity. No outcry. No call for further investigation. I felt that same vague fear that came when we heard about JFK's assassination.
"Can you get more information?" I asked Van.
Van came up to Millbrook the next weekend. I took him on a walk to Lunacy Hill. We sat smoking grass, watching the Hudson Valley tint purple in the sun set.
"My friend in police intelligence knew all about the Mary Pinchot Meyer case. Apparently a lot of people are convinced it was an assassination. Two slugs in the brain and one in the body. That's not the MO of a rapist. And a mugger isn't going to shoot a woman with no purse in her hand."
Van pulled out a Lucky Stripe and lit it. His tremor was more pronounced than usual. "It's gotta be one of the biggest cover-ups in Washington's history. It's too hot too handle. Everyone comes out looking bad. Some people say dope was involved. So the truth could hurt everyone, all those powerful people. No one wants the facts known."
As it turned out, it was some time before the facts were known.
One evening while lying in my cell in the Federal Prison in San Diego reading the paper a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my eye:
NEW JFK STORY-SEX, POT WITH ARTIST
James Truitt, the source for this sensational story, was identified as a former assistant to Philip Graham, publisher of The Washington Post. In interviews with "The National Enquirer, Associated Press and The Washington Post Truitt revealed that a woman named Mary Pinchot Meyer had conducted a two-year love affair with President John Kennedy and had smoked marijuana with him in a White House bedroom. A confident of Mary Meyer, Truitt told a Post correspondent that she and Kennedy met about 30 times between January 1962 and November 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated. Mary Meyer told Truitt that JFK had remarked, "This isn't like cocaine, I'll get you some of that." Truitt claimed that Mary Meyer kept a diary of her affair with the president, which was found after her death by her sister Toni Bradlee and turned over to James Angleton, chief of CIA counter-intelligence who took the diary to CIA headquarters and destroyed it. According to the Post another source confirmed that Mary Meyer's diary was destroyed. This source said the diary...contained a few hundred words of vague reference to an un-named friend.
Mary Meyer's sister was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "I knew nothing about it when Mary was alive."
The article also revealed that the former husband of Mary Pinchot Meyer was Cord Meyer Jr. one of the most influential officials in the CIA- the only agent who had been awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal three times.
I lit a Camel cigarette and walked across my cell to the window and looked through the bars out to San Diego Bay. My mind was reeling with questions. Why was the fact that Cord Meyer Jr. was a top CIA agent covered up in the first stories about Mary's assassination? How come Ben Bradlee, publisher of the Post, brother-in-law of Mary gave her diary to the CIA? Why did James Truitt, top official of the Post break his silence after all these years? What did Mary mean when she said, after Jack Kennedy's assassination, that he knew too much, that he was changing too fast?
I resolved that when I was released from prison I would uncover the truths about Mary Pinchot Meyer and the reasons for her assassination.(To be continued)
Timothy Leary was an award winning social scientist, psychologist, spiritual seeker, and former prisoner. He was the author of more than 100 books and articles. (Portions of this article are reprinted from Flashback by Timothy Leary. Published by J.P. Tarcher Inc.)
Article 1 [link]
Article 2 [link]
Article 3 [link]
10 Mar 2005 @ 16:07 by : Well, Mary...
isn't it interesting, with so many female's at NCN, that not one woman has bothered to read your story or comment on it? No one interested in your sacrifice. Perhaps it is just that the writers' arrogance precludes an acceptence of your humanity? Perhaps it is something else...
That you were a sensitive and honorable human being, unfortunately, doesn't seem to count for much. Is it just the awful bane of your species or are people really so calous in their disregard?
10 Mar 2005 @ 16:41 by swan : I read the story when you first posted
If you might have noticed many of the women at NCN have scattered to the four parts of the world and are not very active any more. I am afraid that calling them " femme Nazi's" probably won't bring them back.
10 Mar 2005 @ 20:31 by : heh heh...
yes, dear swan, I figured, though, that it may generate some ire, spunk, and spire...thus generating discourse as I feel that Mary's story is eluctable, to say the least.
Thanks for your comment, swan. Comments really do help, as a guage, and yours are always thought provoking as well as. sometimes, just plain old 'provoking.' ;)
11 Mar 2005 @ 16:14 by swan : LOL! ( plain old "provoking")
Glad I could be of assistence :-)
11 Mar 2005 @ 18:43 by : Swan...
if you come back and see this would you mind telling me why you think the 'women' have left or become non active? I have my own ideas concerning that 'issue' but is it really true? What did you think of Learys' article? Are you familiar, at all, with Mary Pinchot Meyers' story? I found the prospect that JFK was taking LSD very interesting. That he was smoking 'pot' with his mistress 'Mary Pinchot Meyer,' in the Whitehouse, sheds a new light on many things for me. Old Joseph Kennedy stole a lot from my family so when JFK was murdered by 'our own' people I really didn't feel anything save a possible sense of Venga requited. When his brother was 'iced' it was, well, just one more stake in the old vampires heart! Europo-American politicking at its' best. ;)
11 Mar 2005 @ 19:32 by swan : I can only speak for myself where NCN
is concerned. I have cut way back on my level of activity here for a number of reasons. I am activity promoting my art business in the real world and putting my internet time into that. I also feel like NCN is a wheel that spins around and around and goes no where. Somethings stops it from moving to the next level( I am sure I will catch flack for saying this from someone but it is the way I personally feel) I have learned a lot by my membership over the last three years and there was purpose for me being as active as I was in the past just as there is purpose for my being less active now.
As for the article. I don't want to get into a political discussion because I am not really a political person, but I do have an opinion. I was only 11 when JFK was elected and I feel like that was lifetimes ago for me. At the time I thought he was a great president. I am not surprise that he may have used LSD and smoked pot, everyone was at the time and why should the president be exempt. I have never heard the story about Mary Pinchot Meyer. After reading the story I felt I needed to read more of the research in order to form an opinion because I am sure this is one of those stories where there are numerous prospectives. That is why I didn't make a comment when I first read it.
11 Mar 2005 @ 22:20 by hgoodgame : And I too read this when you first
posted it, but not being a political person either, and it being a 'history' lesson, didn't have anything to add to what you already wrote.
Since when did being a sensitive and honorable human being mean anything to anyone? It's the most overlooked trait and often scorned by those who recognize it in someone else. Doesn't matter, or shouldn't, because it's what we do for ourselves. Mary died as she lived, for a purpose, her purpose. Was she a victim or a victor?
11 Mar 2005 @ 23:14 by : Ah...
I remember once upon a time shakti ma mentioned that after one reads an article making a little *) or some such sign would be an 'idicative,' to the person posting or writing the article, that her/his work was not in vain. I thought that it was a good idea at the time and I still think it is a good idea. Of course running 'commentary' can be fun, too...
I really wasn't interested, as much, in political commentary, per-se, as what you thought about the person 'Mary Pinchot.' Thankyou, both, for commenting but I'd still like to know what you think about Mary Pinchot Meyer.
As to whether or not she was a victim or a victor? Interesting question but I feel that she, at least, made a statement about being a free being. It still amazes me that women and men are placed on such 'opposite' sides of the fence. Actually it doesn't all that much amaze me any more for the divide and conquer routine as well as creating a problem than offering the solution is the way a certain polity, in our world, has been operating for far too long for purposes of 'take over.' Mary has my deep admiration as a human being for I faced some of the same challenges, during that period of time, myself. I went through the training to be an 'acid guide' and used it very efficiently during that phase of my life when Acid was an active agent. Also it prep'd (the training) me for later on usage in bizzar confrontations in more 'covert' activities in the Middle East.
That her life was so casually snuffed out rather angers me and also that JFK was, in the same manner, murdered without nary a peep shows me that we've plenty of work to do where those factions who want total dominance are concerned. Dominance over others is such a paltry game. A real losers game.
Since when? Since forever. Those traits mean a lot to me. The more I contemplate them the more they mean to me. Maybe I don't always show it, on line, I'll get better; but I do exibit awareness of these traits in my day to day life and will, more and more, henceforth.
Also the fact that Timothy wrote this article interested me. Thereis more research available and I would certainly encourage anyone to do more research into Mary Pinchot Meyers' life, especially women for I think must band together and realise the power they have to change history. Mary was relatively isolated but just think what might have been?
Anyhow, thankyou both for reading the article and for commenting. As far as the NCN wheel is concerned I like your analogy of it, swan, but am glad, too, that you are doing your real world work at an upclip and hope you just get awash in it. I think that Mary chose her path and, even though this frightened her, she went forward and confronted her worst nightmare. That there were, and are, women like her in Washington 'White House' society gives me a sense of hope that there may still be ways in which to realise their greater dream of peace and plenty for all. ;)
12 Mar 2005 @ 01:25 by hgoodgame : What I think of Mary P. Meyers -
I recognize in her a courageous and honorable individual, standing for her beliefs (walking her talk) and remaining a free being to the best of her ability in the face of incredible odds and to the very end. I do admire anyone, man or woman, who possesses these traits. These are the secret heroes, the unknown champions. That they go unnoticed by most is as it is.
And I also agree that to dominate is to lose in the end, the need to dominate reveals a secret sense of weakness.
We are changing. We are improving..
In order for women to band together, they must stop seeing each other as the enemy. Man has put woman in a position of seeing her sister as her enemy, her competition, because of convincing her she needs to compete for male attention. As soon as women recognize this lie, they will be free to band together as the sisterhood we are. Yes, we have the power, but we've sure been fooled into thinking we don't.
Thank you for sharing your process. I'm glad to hear of your conscious intention to get better! ;)
Here's a bit of an afterthought on the matter. If Mary made any mistake, and I don't think she did, but if she did something that caused her own untimely end, it would be this: she was too overt in her actions. A womans real power is not overt, that is the mans role, hers is the realm of the invisible arts, the subtle suggestions that overwhelm. ;) She in effect martyred herself by becoming too overt, too visible, in her actions.
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Like the Cheshire Cat, all that remains of Tim is that wonderful smile. Sure hope someone picks up where
Mary Pinchot left off at the canal that day. RIP, Mary.