Marshall McLuhan at the Perception ’67 LSD Convention at the University of Toronto



Allen Ginsberg was one of several high-profile guests at a controversial conference on LSD held at the University of Toronto in 1967.  (DON DUTTON)

Beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg, communications guru Marshall McLuhan, and Star columnist Sidney Katz joined thousands at the University of Toronto starting February 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 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.

Panelists largely supported LSD use, saying it boosted human creativity to previously-unseen levels.

“The use of these drugs, I think, has a very positive effect on writers. They are used by almost all the avant-garde,” Ginsberg said during an on-stage interview.

Even McLuhan, who attended the conference with his wife, chatted up Ginsberg and other panelists (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.” (Source: )


Marshall McLuhan in his Coach House study with a picture of Allen Ginsburg over his books

See also Timothy Leary, Marshall McLuhan & Electronic Media –

See also Timothy Leary and Marshall McLuhan, turned on and tuned in –

“Electric technology, by virtue of its immediate relation to our nervous system, is itself a sort of inner trip, with drugs playing the role of sub-plot or alternative mode. It may well appear a few years hence that the panic about psychedelic drugs relates less to the chemistry than to the hidden terrors which people feel in the presence of electric technology.” –Marshall McLuhan, June 1974

2 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan at the Perception ’67 LSD Convention at the University of Toronto”

  1. I was going to write “I remember it well” but that would be an exaggeration. But I do remember it. (I loved The Fugs.) I remember McLuhan seemed surprised that his friend Timothy Leary actually took drugs. He also told a joke about being stopped at the border because he knew Leary and he had a PhD which US border guards confused with LSD.


    • Good to hear from you, Joe. I know your name from U of T, where I studied in the Graduate Drama Centre, probably when you were there, ’69 – ’72). I’m pleased that you read my McLuhan Galaxy blog. Great anecdote about McLuhan, which I will remember, with attribution to yourself…..Alex


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