In the 1960s there was a growing consciousness that the government matrix was corrupt. Citizens felt the democratic system was not responsive to U.S. citizens but to corporate entities like the military industrial complex. The complex exacerbated the Viet Nam War so that defense contractor friends could supply the tanks, helicopters, napalm, and chemicals like agent orange to keep the war machine grinding up humanity for profit.
Initially, the younger generation believed the pro-war rhetoric of the Cold War of which involvement in Viet Nam was a part. But long before its end, the Viet Nam War became unpopular and attitudes changed practically overnight as students on college campuses decried the war, burned their draft cards, and did as Timothy Leary, a proponent of LSD’s therapeutic effects encouraged them. They “tuned in, turned on and dropped out,” revolutionizing the perspective of how the culture and society reacted to each other, the environment and themselves. The documentary The Sunshine Makers reveals the how and why the revolutionary counterculture of the 1960s came into being.
The astounding documentary directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen is about chemists Tim Scully and Nicholas Sand. Sand and Scully are credited with improving on the formula for LSD (perhaps opaquely handed down from someone connected to the CIA’s Project MKUltra Program), making its purest form, then giving away the various colored tabs, the most popular one being “orange sunshine.”
After they created this purest of pure LSD, they located a distributor, initially, Michael Randall of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The mission of Skully, Sands and The Brotherhood was to raise the consciousness of citizens around the world to help them understand the inner grace of their being and live in peace, love and harmony with each other. Their intention was spiritual and they saw the necessity for inner transformation; LSD was a harmless way to achieve this under controlled settings with a guide who was experienced. They knew from experience; LSD had changed their lives.
Through interviews, old photographs, and archival footage of the 1960s, Mellen reveals the various places impacted by their LSD and how the psychedelic inspired people to manifest a creative, intuitive, and spiritual culture that was the antithesis of what was perceived as a false, limited, materialistic, fear-filled social construct which kept individuals at war with themselves and each other. For Sand and the others, LSD was and still is the way in to peace and the reintegration of the self into wholeness.
The interviews reveal the arc of the sunshine makers’ journey from the 1960s to the present. It shows Sands’ lab relocations and settlement in San Francisco, California, as he eluded their law enforcement captors who surveilled them after manufacturing LSD became a felony. Mellen intercuts archival footage, photographs, and film clips with the present. He switches back and forth to maintain interest and illuminate the various subjects and emphasize their commentary.
For example, the filmmaker interviews Scully and Sand in their current lifestyles and also includes interviews in the present of the law enforcement officers who eventually caught up with them and arrested them. In the law enforcement interviews, we understand how the society’s mainstream perspective of LSD was the antithesis of the perspective of Sand, Scully, and The Brotherhood who were bringing sunshine and peace to American youth and even sent LSD to American soldiers to raise their awareness that killing and war was reprehensible.
Indeed, the two paradigms were/are incredibly disparate. Metaphorically, one paradigm places the love of money foremost over life; it is a paradigm of crass materialism, imperialism, militarism, fear, and hatred that justified the necessity of the Viet Nam War. On the other hand, the sunshine makers and Brotherhood of Eternal Love believed and lived a life supporting the view that killing and hatred of individuals is the lowest, most bestial form of man’s brain. They believed that war, conflict, and hate showed a complete lack of the spiritual consciousness and people who hated were blind to the higher enlightenment of love that unifies all people and makes them able to live at peace with themselves so that they don’t destroy the environment that sustains them.
Mellen reveals how the drug was propagandized and demonized and he shows footage of Nixon’s speech proclaiming his war on drugs. It is ironic considering that the CIA used LSD for research purposes against unwitting, unprepared Americans in a cruel form of experiment which was kept secret and for which they were never prosecuted. And considering Nixon’s falsification of the effects of LSD, it is ironic. Nixon lied about the Watergate debacle and was forced to resign or be impeached. Clearly, the mainstream was terrorized by the impact of LSD to create a counterculture that rebelled against consumerism, protested and demanded that their civil rights be upheld.
I enjoyed Mellen’s incredible black and white archival footage of the chemists in a number of labs they used over the years as they managed to stay one step ahead of law enforcement when LSD was made illegal and drug making became a felony. Then they were arrested. The footage shows Sand making the LSD with his girlfriend at the time, boiling and stirring the liquid which over the years they made on a huge scale (enough for 100 million tabs and more).
Mellon includes black and white footage of past girlfriends and in voice overs, the subjects discuss their relationships with each other. They have remained friendly with Sands and Scully and we are introduced to them in the present. In the opening segments Mellen also includes footage of their visits to Timothy Leary’s Millbrook in Duchess County New York. At Millbrook, there was no class or economic distinction because LSD was a great leveler and regardless of the material wealth of the individuals, all were seekers of the divine within. Individuals from royalty to the most impoverished hippie were seeking a divine revelation which would help them transcend to the reality of consciousness that acknowledged that the material world was impermanent, the spiritual world and states of consciousness were eternal.
Most importantly, throughout, unlike drug purveyors today, both Scully and Sand affirm that they were not interested in making money and becoming billionaires. They, like the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, wished for individuals to be in touch with their higher states of consciousness which would break down the wired conflicts, patterns, false traditions and barriers that stifled and warped their personality with fear, anger and anxiety.
The Sunshine Makers is an intricate look into the lives and perceptions of Nicholas Sands and Tim Scully and their friends whose LSD contribution to awake human consciousness stirred the cultural revolution of the 1960s. For a time, the revolution appeared to go underground. But the concepts remained and grew after they were tested. Like a flowing, fresh stream with no end, their beauty bubbles up in social attitudes that prevail today about unity, citizens’ rights and “being linked not ranked.” Ever-present, as well, is the other paradigm which doesn’t comprehend those values, especially if it means curtailing profits and losing dollars.
The Sunshine Makers opens in NYC at the Village East Cinema on January 20th and in LA at the Laemmle Monica Film Center, and in additional select cities and the twenty-seventh of January, On Demand.