The Historic "Houseboat Summit of 1967"

in life •  last year


Did you know that a couple of weeks after Dr. Timothy Leary first said, "Turn on. Tune in. And drop out," that he agreed with a few of his friends that instead he should have said, "Drop out. Turn on. Drop in."

His change of heart came during a discussion between Leary and a few friends who were meeting on Alan Watts' houseboat, the Vallejo, which was moored in Sausalito, California. It was a small gathering that in addition to Leary and Watts included poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, along with Allen Choen, the publisher of the then very influencial (at least it was influencial in the Bay Area's underground community) San Francisco Oracle.

At the bottom of this post I'll embed a recording of the Houseboat Summit that I published on one of my podcasts from the But to give you a brief perspective of their discussion, particularly as it still is relevant yet today, here are a few quotes from back then.

To begin with, think about how these Alan Watts quotes from that meeting remain in point yet today, particularly when we think about the Occupy Wall Street movement a few years ago and the Black Lives Matter movement today.

“I think that, thus far, the genius of this kind of underground that we’re talking about is that it has no leadership."
“What we need to realize is that there can be, shall we say, a movement, a stirring among people, which can be organically designed instead of politically designed.”

Timothy Leary then chimed in and further explained part of what he meant by dropping out and said, “Drop out of the public schools. The public schools cannot be compromised with.” To which Watts added, “Our educational system in its entirety does nothing to give us any kind of material competence. In other words, we don’t learn how to cook, how to make clothes, how to build houses, how to make love, or to do any of the absolutely fundamental things of life.”

In thinking about the current political situation in the USA with Donald Trump as president, Leary's take on the historical moment back then seems to apply to our times as well. Here is part of what he had to say about empires, “My historical reading of the situation is that these great monolithic empires developed, Rome, Turkey, and so forth, and they always break down when enough people, and it’s always the young, the creative, and minority groups drop out and go back to a tribal form.”

Alan Watts then concluded with some advice that I think could serve us well yet today, “In other words, when there is a game going on that’s on a collision course, and that this game obviously is going to lead to total destruction, the only way of getting people out of a bad game is to indicate that the game is no longer interesting. See, we’ve left this game and it bores us."

Audio recording of The Houseboat Summit of 1967".

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I will have to digest the link you placed here latter. Alan Watts is great. I used to listen to posthumous, weekly talks which were recorded in the 1960's on a radio station in Los Angeles called KPFK. Who knows. Maybe they are still playing them. Watts' knowledge of Eastern philosophy seemed phenomenal.

I think this is one that I missed when you originally released it. Will give it a listen today on the train to Osaka. Alan Watts has been one of my favorite speakers for a long time, but I’m sure I don’t remember him in conversation with Dr. Leary. This should be a good one.


It's a little nugget of history that was made on San Francisco Bay.

I didn't know there were any recordings like this, where they're just discussing these things with each other. I love Allen Ginsberg too, so I'm excited to listen to this. Its fascinating that the quotes you posted sound so much like things people are saying today. It can take such a long time for ideas to filter into the mainstream.


Yes, as I podcast some of these old talks, it sometimes seems as if those discussions took place just yesterday. As my dearly departed mother often said, "Everything has changed, but nothing is different."