Feb. 11, 1967: U of T hosts LSD convention
University tackled topic of popular and, at the time, still-legal hallucinogenic drug
Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg, communications guru Marshall McLuhan and Star columnist Sidney Katz joined thousands at the University of Toronto starting Feb. 11, 1967, for a weekend conference.
Under discussion: the many wonders of LSD.
Students at U of T, with the University College Literary and Athletic Society, organized “Perception ’67” to discuss LSD’s place in contemporary culture. Canadians, especially university students, were fast developing a taste for the still-legal hallucinogenic drug.
Poetry readings by Ginsberg, an LSD-themed art installation (“Mind Excursion”), and a panel talk were all part of the agenda. Organizers soothed the somewhat shocked the public by saying they’d “taken elaborate steps to present all sides and not act as a showcase for the drug experience.”
Among the original lineup was Dr. Timothy Leary, a controversial American LSD spiritualist behind the League for Spiritual Discovery.
“I consider my work basically religious. LSD is Western yoga,” Leary told the Star in an interview.
Panellists largely supported LSD use, saying it boosted human creativity to previously-unseen levels.
“The use of these drugs, I think, has avery positive effect on writers. They are used by almost all the avantgarde,” Ginsberg said during an onstage interview.
Even McLuhan, who attended the conference with his wife, chatted up Ginsberg and other panellists (and, according to student paper Excalibur, wore a psychedelic third eye the whole time).
Star columnist Sidney Katz, however, bemoaned youth using it as a sort of psychological instant gratification.
“The very people who should not be taking LSD are the ones using it; people take it because they feel they are not where the action is,” Katz said.
Perception ’67, according to the Star, ended with an ear-thrashing courtesy of The Fugs — a hairy, psychedelic rock collective from New York.
“Suddenly, the whole audience of 2,000 heard the Fugs screaming words that are only an echo today — they probably won’t be heard again.” With files from the Star archives