Ken Kesey, while a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University (1959-1961), offered himself as a human guinea pig in an MK-ULTRA subproject utilizing such psychedelics as LSD-25, psylocibin, and mescaline inside the walls of Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. It was via Ken Kesey, who disbursed smuggled quantities of then-legal LSD to his intellectual cohorts at Stanford's Perry Lane, that the psychedelic Sixties was born.
At Stanford in 1959, Kesey volunteered to take part in a CIA-financed study named Project MKULTRA at the Menlo Park Veterans Hospital. The project studied the effects of psychoactive drugs, particularly LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, cocaine, AMT, and DMT on people. Kesey wrote many detailed accounts of his experiences with these drugs, both during the Project MKULTRA study and in the years of private experimentation that followed. Kesey's role as a medical guinea pig inspired him to write One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in 1962. The success of this book, as well as the sale of his residence at Stanford, allowed him to move to La Honda, California, in the mountains south of San Francisco. He frequently entertained friends and many others with parties he called "Acid Tests" involving music (such as Kesey's favorite band, The Warlocks, later known as the Grateful Dead), black lights, fluorescent paint, strobes and other "psychedelic" effects, and, of course, LSD. These parties were noted in some of Allen Ginsberg's poems and are also described in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, as well as Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson and Freewheelin Frank, Secretary of the Hell's Angels by Frank Reynolds. Ken Kesey was also said to have experimented with LSD with Ringo Starr in 1965 and in fact influenced the set up for their future performances in the UK.
There are those who would suggest that the Beat Movement was part of a grand conspiracy; and the Beats themselves unwitting pawns in this game. In one of his many broadsheets self-published over the years, Kerry Thornley once posited this theory, without actually elaborating on exactly what this conspiracy entailed. Perhaps what Thornley was alluding to is the same theme found in Todd Brendan Fahey's Wisdom's Maw, which suggests that Ken Kesey as well as the Beats were part of an elaborate scheme concocted by the American Intelligence Community to infiltrate and supply the sixties counterculture with mind altering drugs, ostensibly to test their reactions, and--long range--to influence widespread social control. Theoretically, this was all conducted under the covert auspices of such infamous CIA mind control projects as Artichoke and MK-ULTRA. Such countercultural icons as Kesey and Leary--Fahey suggests--were chosen by the CIA and Military Intelligence as facilitators of this grand experiment, whose powerful side effects are still lingering to this day in the collective craniums of its unwitting participants.
Ginsberg first became acquainted with LSD in 1959, through government sponsored research at the Menlo Research Institute in Palo Alto. Kesey and Jerry Garcia were also early volunteers for these mind-bending experiments, which many connect directly to MK-ULTRA. This before the term psychedelic was in the popular lexicon. At this time psychedelics were referred to as 'psychomimetic' drugs; drugs that reportedly brought about temporary psychosis. Kesey and the other adventurous souls who volunteered their brains for science received 75 dollars a day. Due to a bad trip courtesy of the Menlo Research Institute, Ginsberg composed a poem under the influence of LSD, aptly titled, "Lysergic Acid" of which the following is an excerpt: It is a multiple million eyed monster it is hidden in all it's elephants and selves it hummeth in the electric typewriter it is electricity connected to itself, if it hath wires it is a vast Spiderweb... I, as well, have beheld this multiple million eyed monster, hidden--as it is--in all elephants and selves. Like Ginsberg, acid brought about this nightmarish vision, on the full-size Technicolor viewing screen behind my closed eyelids. Whether or not this monstrous, Bosch-like archetype is inherent exclusively to practitioners of Guerrilla Khundalini, I can not authoritatively address. Nevertheless, I find it interesting that Ginsberg's description of this demonic entity--viewed under the influence of lysergic acid diethylamide--matches almost perfectly my own temporary psychedelic psychosis, producing what would appear to be a shared thematic experience linking the drug experimentation of the Beat subculture with my own generation of Guerrilla Khundalini adepts, forming--one might conjecture--a metaphysical conspiracy that bridges generations; that of a religion of elitists waving no particular banner (except maybe, a "freak flag"), dedicated to the principle of discovering "GOD" on their own terms, without benefit of a mediating agency, or dogmatic agenda. Robert Anton Wilson summed it up best in his intro to Cosmic Trigger when categorizing this new age of holy mad men:
"We are all evolving into the use of new neurological circuits, which will make us superhuman in comparison to our present average state. The activation of these new circuits creates a great deal of temporary weirdness until we learn to use them properly..."
The Beats and Government Intelligence: What Were the Sixties?
by Adam Gorightly