One contributor writes that the group was composed of local surfers, drug users and rich kids from Orange County, Los Angeles and the Pasadena area. This is contested by another contributor, who points out that the genesis of the Brotherhood was a rag-tag crew of very young street toughs in Compton, California - in a poor neighborhood - who in the course of smoking multiple kinds of vegetation and swallowing random available pills for recreational purposes, accidentally encountered LSD. At least a half-dozen of them found their lives transformed by that experience and, in due time, moved south to modest bungalows in the little-known town of Laguna Beach. They tended to wear simple cotton garments, sometimes robes; most were vegetarians; they daily spent considerable time in prayer and simply doing good deeds. Many of them continued to practice their own version of Christianity while opening research into Hinduism, Vajrayana Buddhism, and indigenous and Eastern religions as Brotherhood members happened to find them.
For several years, their psychedelic activities were underwritten by a small, swift business of selling high-quality marijuana. As business expanded, they decided to see if they could build a national distribution network. Farmer John and Chuck Scott bought a new station wagon, loaded it up with kilo bricks of weed and a vast picnic basket of homemade foods from the group's young women, then switch-drove from Laguna to the Holland Tunnel in 52 hours and 20 minutes. Once based in downtown Manhattan, they took almost six weeks to move the load because New York's hippie market for marijuana at the time of their arrival was small and informal. Distribution of the Brotherhood's first wholesale load began the creation of an entirely new market and sales pyramid.
After smoke sales prospered, the Brotherhood began to send researchers around the world to look into purchasing opportunities. Red Lebanese and black Afghan hashish were favored because of their strength, perfumes, and popularity among buyers in the USA. Other varieties of hashish were also bought up and imported in volume. At a certain point, the cash flow was more than sufficient for them to set up their own laboratory in which to manufacture LSD. The elder chemist was the bright and quirky Augustus Stanley Owsley, III, nicknamed Bear, who favored "cocktails": mixtures of LSD and small amounts of amphetamine, for example. Bear ate no vegetable, only meat, claiming that animals ate vegetables and so distilled all the nutritional benefits into their own flesh.
By the late 1960s, what had begun as a brotherhood of idealistic young pacifists had been infiltrated and corrupted by cynical outsiders, some of them armed. The brotherhood of love was gone; the informal organization's name was arrogated by punks and crooks who soon became notorious and widely detested.
The Brotherhood operated originally as a psychedelics distribution network throughout the United States, most notably in California where the organization received large shipments of hashish from Pakistan and Afghanistan, helped by Welshman Howard Marks (now a prominent figure in the cannabis culture). With funds from their hashish smuggling, the organization produced and distributed large amounts of the legendary Orange Sunshine LSD. The organization was headquartered on a ranch in Garner Valley, near Idyllwild. Members paid the Weather Underground to break Timothy Leary out of prison. The organization may have been inspired by, but did not evolve from, Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery or the International Foundation for Internal Freedom. Many of its members were interested in peace and in ending the Vietnam war. A 1972 Rolling Stone article dubbed them the "Hippie Mafia."
Timothy Leary had this to say about the Brotherhood: "The whole concept of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is like a bogeyman invented by the narcs. The brotherhood was about eight surfer kids from Southern California, Laguna Beach, who took the LSD, and they practiced the religion of the worship of nature, and they'd go into the mountains. But they were not bigshots at all. None of them ever drove anything better than a VW bus. They were just kind of in it for the spiritual thrill."
See Also Operation Julie http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/mid/sites/tregaron/pages/film.shtml
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