“He blew in with that uniform…Laying down the most incredible atmosphere of mystery and flamboyance, and really impressive bullshit!” Leary recalls. “He was pissed off. His Rolls Royce had broken down on the freeway, so he went to a pay phone and called the company in London. That’s what kind of guy he was. He started name-dropping like you wouldn’t believe…Claimed he was friends with the Pope.”“The thing that impressed me,” Leary remembers, “is on one hand he looked like a carpetbagger con man, and on the other he had these most-impressive people in the world on his lap, basically backing him.”
Meet ‘Captain’ Al Hubbard, the latest seminal CC figure we’re going to treat. I’d have to say, after looking at Al a little more closely, I had one of those moments where as they say, ‘the penny dropped’.
In the context of the some of the research I’ve done in the past, and will do in the future, and especially in light of some the ambiguous roots of the so-called counter culture, Captain Al raises some troubling and inspiring questions about our human destiny and whether there really is a clear line between the magnanimous and the malignant.
When I talked about Lilly earlier I sort of discussed how I thought the drug approach to illumination is a kind of mixed blessing. It certainly helps to open people up in a way that may have been impossible otherwise, but it does that in a way that, if you never outgrow the drugs, subtly erodes your ability to achieve your own innate capacities.
What makes this somewhat more disturbing, and fascinating, is that Captain Al, who was about as ideal a vehicle to bring the acid revelation to the people as you can imagine, was apparently selected and motivated to do so by some kind of otherworldly presence.
This man who started out a ‘barefoot’, dirt poor, Kentucky hick, at the age of 18 was instructed ‘by a pair of angels’ on how to construct a simple kind of radioactive battery, which patent netted him a small fortune, and was never seen again.
He then goes on to storied career in covert operations, pre wwII, which lent him the support of no less a political figure than the president himself, followed by entrepreneurial ventures in the uranium business which made him a millionaire.
To his credit, Captain AL wanted more a purpose than to live as one of the idle rich. Another angelic revelation kicked off his search for the ‘sacrament’ of LSD which became his lifelong quest to pass on to the world.
Now one estimate of the number of people Captain Al turned on ranges into the thousands. And Al was not like Leary, throwing the stuff onto the winds to whoever cared to try it. He was very selective. In many cases he administered it to alcoholics and depressives of various stripes, and apparently had a great deal of success with that, mostly through skilled use of what Leary would later term ‘set and setting’. I think Captain Al was very aware of the sensitivity of a person in a state of drug induced boundary dissolution and how important it was to orchestrate the experience carefully. But I digress…
The larger part of his recipients were what you might call ‘the elite’. Scientists, artists, academics, celebrities, even a politician or two. Thousands of them. And because he was working on his own, with no real oversight, protected by his contacts and money, we may never know how many people Captain Al actually turned on.
And here’s the thing: he had even bigger plans. He wanted to expand the use of LSD into the medical establishment full speed ahead. But he knew he had to be careful. He deeply resented Timothy Leary for invoking the panic that brought his work to an end. How many more politicians, scientists and businessmen would he have turned on, if he had been able to finish his life’s work? We know about Aldous Huxley, Ram Dass and Timothy Leary. We know the impact they’ve had on our culture. Imagine that ten fold, twenty fold, a hundred fold. Where would we be now?
We can theorize about whether or not the counter culture was co-opted from the outset. We can argue that the co-opters were themselves co-opted. Tim has covered that ground before in some detail. But, what if the whole thing has been co-opted by a source that isn’t even human?
It wouldn’t be the first time. Rene Descartes. Buckminster Fuller. Jack Sarfatti. Aliester Crowley. And on and on…. All touched by voices from beyond the human realm, or so we are told. And if we add the latter day UFO ‘revelations’ how many more is that?
We tend to circumscribe artificial lines around ‘counter culture’. We want to believe that it is populist, egalitarian, spiritual, non materialistic, peace loving, democratic. So what are we to make of the ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of LSD? This undereducated military veteran, covert operator, staunch Christian, uranium millionaire, and psychedelic elitist. Who just so happened to be taking pointers from something that crosses all our arbitrary political fences without a care in the world. We know Captain Al was protected by his contacts and money, but it seems like he had even bigger backers than that, doesn’t it?