Among those noting his death was Zach Leary, Timothy Leary’s son. “One of the essential anchors of the psychedelic movement,” he said of Mr. Metzner on Facebook.
Dr. Metzner stressed that consciousness expansion was not always a mysterious, esoteric phenomenon.
“Actually, your consciousness expands every morning when you wake up,” he explained in the 2015 interview. “You’re coming out of a dream and you say, ‘Oh, here’s my room, my bed, my wife, my family, my dog, my job.’ That’s a series of consciousness expansions. And every night when you go to sleep you kind of close in. And that’s a perfectly normal thing, to expand consciousness and to also be able to contract consciousness and focus.”
“The ideal,” he added, “is to have them be under your intentional control.”
Ralph Humphrey Guenther Metzner was born on May 18, 1936, in Berlin. His father, Wolfgang, owned a publishing house, and his mother, Jessie (Laurie) Metzner, had worked for the League of Nations. His mother was Scottish, and after World War II he alternated between schools in Scotland and Germany before attending the Queen’s College, Oxford. After receiving a degree there, he went to Harvard in 1958 to continue his studies.
In one experiment in which he was involved, inmates at a maximum-security prison were given psilocybin, a hallucinogen derived from mushrooms, to see if it reduced their recidivism rate. As with other experiments done by the Leary group, the tradition of giving the subjects a drug and then watching their reaction was not followed.
“We took the drugs with them,” Dr. Metzner recalled in 2017 in an episode of a podcast Zach Leary hosts for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “I had about 10 or more psychedelic experiences with a group of convicts.”
Colleagues thought they were crazy to take drugs with dangerous felons, but Dr. Metzner said the concerns had been unfounded. “There was never, ever a single moment of violence in the entire time, by anybody,” he said. “Not even a single moment of fear.”