Page One

S.F.’s Summer of Love lives on in new novel

By Sari Friedman Daily Planet Correspondent
Monday September 03, 2001

The differences between reality, fiction and spirit blur in “The Other Side of Haight,” the new novel by James Fadiman, the cofounder of The Institute of Transperson Psychology and director of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.  

The story takes place in a San Francisco gently but firmly exploding into the summer of love, with two very different characters. One is a groovy, achingly young runaway named Shadow Dancer; the other is one of her lovers Angelo — an ivy league straight guy who had intended to spend his time busily earning brownie points in a secret CIA-sponsored study that was being conducted on unwitting male whorehouse clientele.  

Both characters — and even the air itself — seem to shimmer with awareness, vulnerability, hope and the excitement of entering the greatest spiritual adventure of their lives. 

This book will be like floating right back to a familiar cloud if you were there at the first Be-In at Golden Gate Park, the everyday life of the street on places like Haight-Ashbury or hanging out with the likes of Ken Kesey and Alan Ginsberg and other famous explorers of the 60s at Janis Joplin concerts fragrant with pot.  

If you weren’t there, and instead, like me, reached adulthood only to find, disappointingly, that the 60s seemed smoked and gone — despite all the parents and teachers who’d gone quite gray worrying that every child who didn’t get to bed by 8 p.m. would end up pregnant or impregnating, hooked on LSD, long-haired and too-groovy-for-words — this book will be like finally getting to that elusive state of consciousness-expanding Be-In at last.  

James Fadiman aims to have captured it all, trying to be accurate with both the facts and the feelings of this exuberant, amazing and highly remarkable period. 

In fact, the most astonishing details in the book come from real events, as James Fadiman explains, “It is true that ‘The Agency’ funded and ran a whorehouse in San Francisco and that it was used as a laboratory to observe how subjects would react to being given LSD and other drugs without their knowledge.”  

And yet this book is most truly a tribute to such psychedelics, in the words of Terence McKenna, one of the great explorers of inner space: “If psychedelics don’t ready you for the great beyond, then I don’t know what really does. ... I have an absolute faith that the universe prefers joy and distills us with joy. That is what religion is trying to download to us, and this is what every moment of life is trying to do — if we can open to it.”