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“The Siren Song of Yoga”: Sex, Spirituality, and the Limits of American Countercultures

Published onAug 06, 2020
“The Siren Song of Yoga”: Sex, Spirituality, and the Limits of American Countercultures

ONE WEDNESDAY evening in 1969, Lenny Lipton, a columnist for the underground Berkeley Barb, drove through Berkeley, California, on the way home from “psychiatric yoga,” as he called his weekly appointment with an Oakland therapist. Psychedelist Timothy Leary was in the college town delivering the fourth in a five-lecture series explicating his theories about universal cosmic interconnectedness, a “construct of the yoga,” Lipton wrote, that he could relate to. In the middle of Leary’s speech before a packed crowd, however, Lipton remembered an “electrifying moment” transpiring. A “chick” named Stephanie Lovelace made her way onstage and, “as every dude in the place willed her to remove her clothes and expose her body,” the blonde obligingly disrobed. She was “attempting to seduce Tim Leary in front of a thousand amazed people, all hung up and crazed as we are, waiting for the great man to either fuck her, or make it all go away.” Temporarily flustered, the otherwise “magical” Leary finally regained his composure and concluded by commanding the audience to “drop out” of social conventions to “find your hedonic structure.” Lovelace, however, who had ostensibly been acting on precisely that pleasure principle, had been coaxed by Leary to observe the rest of the talk “demurely from a nearby chair.”1

At first glance, Lipton’s breathlessly confessional column portrays a quin- tessential tableau of sexual, chemical, and spiritual exploration familiar to scholars of California counterculture


The Siren Song of Yoga’: Sex, Spirituality, and the Limits of American Countercultures(Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Pacific Historical Review 89, no. 3 (July 2020): 379–401.)


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