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2003 history abstracts

2003 Research Fair Archive - History Abstracts

The Problem of History as Science
by Stewart Anderson  (Faculty Sponsor:  Elree Harris)

The traditional way of interpreting history involves establishing evidence in proving a thesis. Under this paradigm, history is weighed according to a scientific viewpoint. This paper will explain and critique this assumption. Further, it will propose a new theory or means of interpreting history.

Positively Bob Dylan:  Popular Culture, Heroism and the Sixties
by Dylan Winslow  (Faculty Sponsor:  Jeffrey Nichols)

A paper discussing Bob Dylan's significance as an icon in 1960's popular culture.

The Black Panthers vs. The Chicago Police, 1968
by Carly Brisbay  (Faculty Sponsor:  Susan Cottler)

Discussing the Black Panther motel shootings by Chicago Police and its impact on civil rights.

LSD and the Quest for Spirituality in the 1960s
by Rebecca Elwell  (Faculty Sponsor:  Susan Cottler)

A Chemistry Harvard professor named Timothy Leary once stated, "it becomes necessary for us to go out of our minds in order to use our heads." This statement resonated across America in the 1960s, and many people took the paradox literally. As the advocate for this movement, Leary produced and marketed lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25), a drug the United States government first used on combatants in WWII as a "truth serum." In the 1960s, however, this drug hit the public streets, making its way to college dormitories and homes. Leary claimed this consciousness-expanding drug, whose chemical make-up altered the firing of neurons in one's brain and caused a person to hallucinate, was the only way one can experience personal enlightenment. Many took LSD in hopes of experiencing revelations, but for those who were addicted to it lived in a state of delirium during this tumultuous decade.

Although many people between the ages of sixteen and thirty had taken LSD or some other mind-altering, "consciousness-expanding" drug in the 1960s, the group who made a lifestyle out of being high or "tripping" was only a small percentage of the youth culture. These "acid heads," led by Leary, lived their lives in a constant state of surrealism. Their motivation not only entailed the idea of “opening the doors of perception,” it provided a form of group escapism. Owing to the need to leave the superficiality and capitalist consumerism that started in the 1950s, hallucinogens became a tool that “acid heads” used to express their rebellion and the means in which they were able to flee from mainstream society. This form of escapism was not one with a political agenda, “acid heads” felt that the American society had become too materialistic and had lost the meaning of togetherness.

This rebellion from the consumerist mainstream was not one dimensional, it challenged traditional western religions. Many people in the 1960s veered toward an alternative spiritual destination, leaving behind his or her roots in monotheistic belief. Timothy Leary expressed the ways in which could attain a higher spiritual understanding through LSD. People bought the idea that further enhanced the rationale for taking the psychedelic in the first place. Along with the desire to leave mainstream society, drug usage and spiritual understanding became a common and familiar belief. They sought another meaning for togetherness, dropped out of the popular society, and fled to communes. They found solace among people who felt the same way they did; this was their form of escapism.

The following pages will explore the history of LSD and other hallucinogens and how they became popular among people during the 1960s. More importantly, the thesis will concentrate on the “acid heads” and the leaders of the psychedelic era who pushed for the widespread usage of hallucinogens. It will explore Timothy Leary’s justification for spiritual well-being and the acid heads’ motivation to follow Leary’s path. It will also delve into the popularity of commune living, which provided shelter from mainstream society and live in a seemingly cult-like environment. Why was LSD so popular and why did a select few take it so often? They did not take it solely because of its hedonistic components, they were looking for something more.