The Importance of Being Conscious: Psychedelic Perception and Holistic Health in the Life and Writing of Health Guru Dr. Andrew Weil

Saturday, January 9, 2016: 12:10 PM
Room 304 (Hilton Atlanta)
Maria McGrath, Bucks County Community College
In the 1960s and 1970s, countercultural rebels interpreted the body as a space for expressive experimentation. In fashion, hairstyle, music, dance, sex, and drugs, they used the naked body, bodily pleasure, and body movement to shake off the mental and social constraints of society—to enjoy what they believed to be their more authentic, “natural” selfhood.

The holistic health movement, a subculture that coalesced in late 1960s-early 1970s anti-establishment milieu, also sought to re-imagine the body by emphasizing the importance of mindset and lifestyle to health. In re-interpreting the mechanics of disease and wellness, the holistic movement aspired to wrest control of the body from the alleged tyranny of doctors, medical technology, hospitals, and scientific rationality. This radical construal of health resonated with many progressive Americans in the early 1970s as they began to turn their attention from social revolution to spiritual, psychological, and physical perfection.

Centering on contemporary health guru and 1960s psychedelics pundit, Andrew Weil, my talk will explore how the countercultural drug scene—with its quest for psycho-social liberation through altered states—provided conceptual support for the alternative health movement. Indeed, 1960s psychedelic advocates and post-1960s holistic devotees shared the belief that states of mind could materially influence the personal body and eventually the body politic. My talk will offer critical consideration of whether the “consciousness work” proposed by these movements actually delivered everything promised.