LSD - My Problem Child
5. From Remedy to Inebriant
During the first years after its discovery, LSD brought me the same happiness and gratification that any pharmaceutical chemist would feel on learning that a substance he or she produced might possibly develop into a valuable medicament. For the creation of new remedies is the goal of a pharmaceutical chemist's research activity; therein lies the meaning of his or her work.
Nonmedical Use of LSDThis joy at having fathered LSD was tarnished after more than ten years of uninterrupted scientific research and medicinal use when LSD was swept up in the huge wave of an inebriant mania that began to spread over the Western world, above all the United States, at the end of the 1950s. It was strange how rapidly LSD adopted its new role as inebriant and, for a time, became the number-one inebriating drug, at least as far as publicity was concerned. The more its use as an inebriant was disseminated, bringing an upsurge in the number of untoward incidents caused by careless, medically unsupervised use, the more LSD became a problem child for me and for the Sandoz firm.
It was obvious that a substance with such fantastic effects on mental perception and on the experience of the outer and inner world would also arouse interest outside medical science, but I had not expected that LSD, with its unfathomably uncanny, profound effects, so unlike the character of a recreational drug, would ever find worldwide use as an inebriant. I had expected curiosity and interest on the part of artists outside of medicine-performers, painters, and writers-but not among people in general. After the scientific publications around the turn of the century on mescaline-which, as already mentioned, evokes psychic effects quite like those of LSD-the use of this compound remained confined to medicine and to experiments within artistic and literary circles. I had expected the same fate for LSD. And indeed, the first non-medicinal self-experiments with LSD were carried out by writers, painters, musicians, and other intellectuals.
LSD sessions had reportedly provoked extraordinary aesthetic experiences and granted new insights into the essence of the creative process. Artists were influenced in their creative work in unconventional ways. A particular type of art developed that has become known as psychedelic art. It comprises creations produced under the influenced of LSD and other psychedelic drugs, whereby the drugs acted as stimulus and source of inspiration. The standard publication in this field is the book by Robert E. L. Masters and Jean Houston, Psychedelic Art (Balance House, 1968). Works of psychedelic art are not created while the drug is in effect, but only afterward, the artist being inspired by these experiences. As long as the inebriated condition lasts, creative activity is impeded, if not completely halted. The influx of images is too great and is increasing too rapidly to be portrayed and fashioned. An overwhelming vision paralyzes activity. Artistic productions arising directly from LSD inebriation, therefore, are mostly rudimentary in character and deserve consideration not because of their artistic merit, but because they are a type of psychoprogram, which offers insight into the deepest mental structures of the artist, activated and made conscious by LSD. This was demonstrated later in a large-scale experiment by the Munich psychiatrist Richard P. Hartmann, in which thirty famous painters took part. He published the results in his book Malerei aus Bereichen des Unbewussten: Kunstler Experimentieren unter LSD [Painting from spheres of the unconscious: artists experiment with LSD], Verlag M. Du Mont Schauberg, Cologne, 1974).
LSD experiments also gave new impetus to exploration into the essence of religious and mystical experience. Religious scholars and philosophers discussed the question whether the religious and mystical experiences often discovered in LSD sessions were genuine, that is, comparable to spontaneous mysticoreligious enlightenment.
This nonmedicinal yet earnest phase of LSD research, at times in parallel with medicinal research, at times following it, was increasingly overshadowed at the beginning of the 1960s, as LSD use spread with epidemic-like speed through all social classes, as a sensational inebriating drug, in the course of the inebriant mania in the United States. The rapid rise of drug use, which had its beginning in this country about twenty years ago, was not, however, a consequence of the discovery of LSD, as superficial observers often declared. Rather it had deep-seated sociological causes: materialism, alienation from nature through industrialization and increasing urbanization, lack of satisfaction in professional employment in a mechanized, lifeless working world, ennui and purposelessness in a wealthy, saturated society, and lack of a religious, nurturing, and meaningful philosophical foundation of life.
The existence of LSD was even regarded by the drug enthusiasts as a predestined coincidence-it had to be discovered precisely at this time in order to bring help to people suffering under the modern conditions. It is not surprising that LSD first came into circulation as an inebriating drug in the United States, the country in which industrialization, urbanization, and mechanization, even of agriculture, are most broadly advanced. These are the same factors that have led to the origin and growth of the hippie movement that developed simultaneously with the LSD wave. The two cannot be dissociated. It would be worth investigating to what extent the consumption of psychedelic drugs furthered the hippie movement and conversely.
The spread of LSD from medicine and psychiatry into the drug scene was introduced and expedited by publications on sensational LSD experiments that, although they were carried out in psychiatric clinics and universities, were not then reported in scientific journals, but rather in magazines and daily papers, greatly elaborated. Reporters made themselves available as guinea pigs. Sidney Katz, for example, participated in an LSD experiment in the Saskatchewan Hospital in Canada under the supervision of noted psychiatrists; his experiences, however, were not published in a medical journal. Instead, he described them in an article entitled "My Twelve Hours as a Madman" in his magazine MacLean's Canada National Magazine, colorfully illustrated in fanciful fullness of detail. The widely distributed German magazine Quick, in its issue number 12 of 21 March 1954, reported a sensational eyewitness account on "Ein kuhnes wissenschaftliches Experiment" [a daring scientific experiment] by the painter Wilfried Zeller, who took "a few drops of lysergic acid" in the Viennese University Psychiatric Clinic. Of the numerous publications of this type that have made effective lay propaganda for LSD, it is sufficient to cite just one more example: a large-scale, illustrated article in Look magazine of September 1959. Entitled "The Curious Story Behind the New Cary Grant," it must have contributed enormously to the diffusion of LSD consumption. The famous movie star had received LSD in a respected clinic in California, in the course of a psychotherapeutic treatment. He informed the Look reporter that he had sought inner peace his whole life long, but yoga, hypnosis, and mysticism had not helped him. Only the treatment with LSD had made a new, self-strengthened man out of him, so that after three frustrating marriages he now believed himself really able to love and make a woman happy.
The evolution of LSD from remedy to inebriating drug was, however, primarily promoted by the activities of Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert of Harvard University. In a later section I will come to speak in more detail about Dr. Leary and my meetings with this personage who has become known worldwide as an apostle of LSD.
Books also appeared on the U.S. market in which the fantastic effects of LSD were reported more fully. Here only two of the most important will be mentioned: Exploring Inner Space by Jane Dunlap (Harcourt Brace and World, New York, 1961) and My Self and I by Constance A. Newland (N A.L. Signet Books, New York, 1963). Although in both cases LSD was used within the scope of a psychiatric treatment, the authors addressed their books, which became bestsellers, to the broad public. In her book, subtitled "The Intimate and Completely Frank Record of One Woman's Courageous Experiment with Psychiatry's Newest Drug, LSD 25," Constance A. Newland described in intimate detail how she had been cured of frigidity. After such avowals, one can easily imagine that many people would want to try the wondrous medicine for themselves. The mistaken opinion created by such reports- that it would be sufficient simply to take LSD in order to accomplish such miraculous effects and transformations in oneself-soon led to broad diffusion of self-experimentation with the new drug.
Objective, informative books about LSD and its problems also appeared, such as the excellent work by the psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Cohen, The Beyond Within (Atheneum, New York, 1967), in which the dangers of careless use are clearly exposed. This had, however, no power to put a stop to the LSD epidemic.
As LSD experiments were often carried out in ignorance of the uncanny, unforeseeable, profound effects, and without medical supervision, they frequently came to a bad end. With increasing LSD consumption in the drug scene, there came an increase in "horror trips"-LSD experiments that led to disoriented conditions and panic, often resulting in accidents and even crime.
The rapid rise of nonmedicinal LSD consumption at the beginning of the 1960s was also partly attributable to the fact that the drug laws then current in most countries did not include LSD. For this reason, drug habitués changed from the legally proscribed narcotics to the still-legal substance LSD. Moreover, the last of the Sandoz patents for the production of LSD expired in 1963, removing a further hindrance to illegal manufacture of the drug.
The rise of LSD in the drug scene caused our firm a nonproductive, laborious burden. National control laboratories and health authorities requested statements from us about chemical and pharmacological properties, stability and toxicity of LSD, and analytical methods for its detection in confiscated drug samples, as well as in the human body, in blood and urine. This brought a voluminous correspondence, which expanded in connection with inquiries from all over the world about accidents, poisonings, criminal acts, and so forth, resulting from misuse of LSD. All this meant enormous, unprofitable difficulties, which the business management of Sandoz regarded with disapproval. Thus it happened one day that Professor Stoll, managing director of the firm at the time, said to me reproachfully: "I would rather you had not discovered LSD."
At that time, I was now and again assailed by doubts whether the valuable pharmacological and psychic effects of LSD might be outweighed by its dangers and by possible injuries due to misuse. Would LSD become a blessing for humanity, or a curse? This I often asked myself when I thought about my problem child. My other preparations, Methergine, Dihydroergotamine, and Hydergine, caused me no such problems and difficulties. They were not problem children; lacking extravagant properties leading to misuse, they have developed in a satisfying manner into therapeutically valuable medicines.
The publicity about LSD attained its high point in the years 1964 to 1966, not only with regard to enthusiastic claims about the wondrous effects of LSD by drug fanatics and hippies, but also to reports of accidents, mental breakdowns, criminal acts, murders, and suicide under the influence of LSD. A veritable LSD hysteria reigned.
Sandoz Stops LSD DistributionIn view of this situation, the management of Sandoz was forced to make a public statement on the LSD problem and to publish accounts of the corresponding measures that had been taken. The pertinent letter, dated 23 August 1965, by Dr. A. Cerletti, at the time director of the Pharmaceutical Department of Sandoz, is reproduced below:
Decision Regarding LSD 25 and Other Hallucinogenic SubstancesMore than twenty years have elapsed since the discovery by Albert Hofmann of LSD 25 in the SANDOZ Laboratories. Whereas the . fundamental importance of this discovery may be assessed by its impact on the development of modern psychiatric research, it must be recognized that it placed a heavy burden of responsibility on SANDOZ, the owner of this product.For a while the distribution of LSD and psilocybin was stopped completely by Sandoz. Most countries had subsequently proclaimed strict regulations concerning possession, distribution, and use of hallucinogens, so that physicians, psychiatric clinics, and research institutes, if they could produce a special permit to work with these substances from the respective national health authorities, could again be supplied with LSD and psilocybin. In the United States the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) undertook the distribution of these agents to licensed research institutes.
The finding of a new chemical with outstanding biological properties, apart from the scientific success implied by its synthesis, is usually the first decisive step toward profitable development of a new drug. In the case of LSD, however, it soon became clear that, despite the outstanding properties of this compound, or rather because of the very nature of these qualities, even though LSD was fully protected by SANDOZ-owned patents since the time of its first synthesis in 1938, the usual means of practical exploitation could not be envisaged.
On the other hand, all the evidence obtained following the initial studies in animals and humans carried out in the SANDOZ research laboratories pointed to the important role that this substance could play as an investigational tool in neurological research and in psychiatry.
It was therefore decided to make LSD available free of charge to qualified experimental and clinical investigators all over the world. This broad research approach was assisted by the provision of any necessary technical aid and in many instances also by financial support.
An enormous amount of scientific documents, published mainly in the international biochemical and medical literature and systematically listed in the "SANDOZ Bibliography on LSD" as well as in the "Catalogue of Literature on Delysid" periodically edited by SANDOZ, gives vivid proof of what has been achieved by following this line of policy over nearly two decades. By exercising this kind of "nobile officium" in accordance with the highest standards of medical ethics with all kinds of self-imposed precautions and restrictions, it was possible for many years to avoid the danger of abuse (i.e., use by people neither competent nor qualified), which is always inherent in a compound with exceptional CNS activity.
In spite of all our precautions, cases of LSD abuse have occurred from time to time in varying circumstances completely beyond the control of SANDOZ. Very recently this danger has increased considerably and in some parts of the world has reached the scale of a serious threat to public health. This state of affairs has now reached a critical point for the following reasons: (1) A worldwide spread of misconceptions of LSD has been caused by an increasing amount of publicity aimed at provoking an active interest in laypeople by means of sensational stories and statements; (2) In most countries no adequate legislation exists to control and regulate the production and distribution of substances like LSD; (3) The problem of availability of LSD, once limited on technical grounds, has fundamentally changed with the advent of mass production of lysergic acid by fermentation procedures. Since the last patent on LSD expired in 1963, it is not surprising to find that an increasing number of dealers in fine chemicals are offering LSD from unknown sources at the high price known to be paid by LSD fanatics.
Taking into consideration all the above-mentioned circumstances and the flood of requests for LSD which has now become uncontrollable, the pharmaceutical management of SANDOZ has decided to stop immediately all further production and distribution of LSD. The same policy will apply to all derivatives or analogues of LSD with hallucinogenic properties as well as to Psilocybin, Psilocin, and their hallucinogenic congeners.
All these legislative and official precautions, however, had little influence on LSD consumption in the drug scene, yet on the other hand hindered and continue to hinder medicinal-psychiatric use and LSD research in biology and neurology, because many researchers dread the red tape that is connected with the procurement of a license for the use of LSD. The bad reputation of LSD-its depiction as an "insanity drug" and a "satanic invention" - constitutes a further reason why many doctors shunned use of LSD in their psychiatric practice.
In the course of recent years the uproar of publicity about LSD has quieted, and the consumption of LSD as an inebriant has also diminished, as far as that can be concluded from the rare reports about accidents and other regrettable occurrences following LSD ingestion. It may be that the decrease of LSD accidents, however, is not simply due to a decline in LSD consumption. Possibly the recreational users, with time, have become more aware of the particular effects and dangers of LSD and more cautious in their use of this drug. Certainly LSD, which was for a time considered in the Western world, above all in the United States, to be the number-one inebriant, has relinquished this leading role to other inebriants such as hashish and the habituating, even physically destructive drugs like heroin and amphetamine. The last-mentioned drugs represent an alarming sociological and public health problem today.
Dangers of Nonmedicinal LSD ExperimentsWhile professional use of LSD in psychiatry entails hardly any risk, the ingestion of this substance outside of medical practice, without medical supervision, is subject to multifarious dangers. These dangers reside, on the one hand, in external circumstances connected with illegal drug use and, on the other hand, in the peculiarity of LSD's psychic effects.
The advocates of uncontrolled, free use of LSD and other hallucinogens base their attitude on two claims: (l) this type of drug produces no addiction, and (2) until now no danger to health from moderate use of hallucinogens has been demonstrated. Both are true. Genuine addiction, characterized by the fact that psychic and often severe physical disturbances appear on withdrawal of the drug, has not been observed, even in cases in which LSD was taken often and over a long period of time. No organic injury or death as a direct consequence of an LSD intoxication has yet been reported. As discussed in greater detail in the chapter "LSD in Animal Experiments and Biological Research," LSD is actually a relatively nontoxic substance in proportion to its extraordinarily high psychic activity.
Psychotic ReactionsLike the other hallucinogens, however, LSD is dangerous in an entirely different sense. While the psychic and physical dangers of the addicting narcotics, the opiates, amphetamines, and so forth, appear only with chronic use, the possible danger of LSD exists in every single experiment. This is because severe disoriented states can appear during any LSD inebriation. It is true that through careful preparation of the experiment and the experimenter such episodes can largely be avoided, but they cannot be excluded with certainty. LSD crises resemble psychotic attacks with a manic or depressive character.
In the manic, hyperactive condition, the feeling of omnipotence or invulnerability can lead to serious casualties. Such accidents have occurred when inebriated persons confused in this way-believing themselves to be invulnerable-walked in front of a moving automobile or jumped out a window in the belief that they were able to fly. This type of LSD casualty, however, is not so common as one might be led to think on the basis of reports that were sensationally exaggerated by the mass media. Nevertheless, such reports must serve as serious warnings.
On the other hand, a report that made the rounds worldwide, in 1966, about an alleged murder committed under the influence on LSD, cannot be true. The suspect, a young man in New York accused of having killed his mother-in-law, explained at his arrest, immediately after the fact, that he knew nothing of the crime and that he had been on an LSD trip for three days. But an LSD inebriation, even with the highest doses, lasts no longer than twelve hours, and repeated ingestion leads to tolerance, which means that extra doses are ineffective. Besides, LSD inebriation is characterized by the fact that the person remembers exactly what he or she has experienced. Presumably the defendant in this case expected leniency for extenuating circumstances, owing to unsoundness of mind.
The danger of a psychotic reaction is especially great if LSD is given to someone without his or her knowledge. This was demonstrated in an episode that took place soon after the discovery of LSD, during the first investigations with the new substance in the Zurich University Psychiatric Clinic, when people were not yet aware of the danger of such jokes. A young doctor, whose colleagues had slipped LSD into his coffee as a lark, wanted to swim across Lake Zurich during the winter at -20!C (-4!F) and had to be prevented by force.
There is a different danger when the LSD-induced disorientation exhibits a depressive rather than manic character. In the course of such an LSD experiment, frightening visions, death agony, or the fear of becoming insane can lead to a threatening psychic breakdown or even to suicide. Here the LSD trip becomes a "horror trip."
The demise of a Dr. Olson, who had been given LSD without his knowledge in the course of U.S. Army drug experiments, and who then committed suicide by jumping from a window, caused a particular sensation. His family could not understand how this quiet, well-adjusted man could have been driven to this deed. Not until fifteen years later, when the secret documents about the experiments were published, did they learn the true circumstances, whereupon the president of the United States publicly apologized to the dependents.
The conditions for the positive outcome of an LSD experiment, with little possibility of a psychotic derailment, reside on the one hand in the individual and on the other hand in the external milieu of the experiment. The internal, personal factors are called set, the external conditions setting.
The beauty of a living room or of an outdoor location is perceived with particular force because of the highly stimulated sense organs during LSD inebriation, and such an amenity has a substantial influence on the course of the experiment. The persons present, their appearance, their traits, are also part of the setting that determines the experience. The acoustic milieu is equally significant. Even harmless noises can turn to torment, and conversely lovely music can develop into a euphoric experience. With LSD experiments in ugly or noisy surroundings, however, there is greater danger of a negative outcome, including psychotic crises. The machine- and appliance-world of today offers much scenery and all types of noise that could very well trigger panic during enhanced sensibility.
Just as meaningful as the external milieu of the LSD experience, if not even more important, is the mental condition of the experimenters, their current state of mind, their attitude to the drug experience, and their expectations associated with it. Even unconscious feelings of happiness or fear can have an effect. LSD tends to intensify the actual psychic state. A feeling of happiness can be heightened to bliss, a depression can deepen to despair. LSD is thus the most inappropriate means imaginable for curing a depressive state. It is dangerous to take LSD in a disturbed, unhappy frame of mind, or in a state of fear. The probability that the experiment will end in a psychic breakdown is then quite high.
Among persons with unstable personality structures, tending to psychotic reactions, LSD experimentation ought to be completely avoided. Here an LSD shock, by releasing a latent psychosis, can produce a lasting mental injury.
The psyche of very young persons should also be considered as unstable, in the sense of not yet having matured. In any case, the shock of such a powerful stream of new and strange perceptions and feelings, such as is engendered by LSD, endangers the sensitive, still-developing psycho-organism. Even the medicinal use of LSD in youths under eighteen years of age, in the scope of psychoanalytic or psychotherapeutic treatment, is discouraged in professional circles, correctly so in my opinion. Juveniles for the most part still lack a secure, solid relationship to reality. Such a relationship is needed before the dramatic experience of new dimensions of reality can be meaningfully integrated into the world view. Instead of leading to a broadening and deepening of reality consciousness, such an experience in adolescents will lead to insecurity and a feeling of being lost. Because of the freshness of sensory perception in youth and the still-unlimited capacity for experience, spontaneous visionary experiences occur much more frequently than in later life. For this reason as well, psychostimulating agents should not be used by juveniles.
Even in healthy, adult persons, even with adherence to all of the preparatory and protective measures discussed, an LSD experiment can fail, causing psychotic reactions. Medical supervision is therefore earnestly to be recommended, even for nonmedicinal LSD experiments. This should include an examination of the state of health before the experiment. The doctor need not be present at the session; however, medical help should at all times be readily available.
Acute LSD psychoses can be cut short and brought under control quickly and reliably by injection of chlorpromazine or another sedative of this type.
The presence of a familiar person, who can request medical help in the event of an emergency, is also an indispensable psychological assurance. Although the LSD inebriation is characterized mostly by an immersion in the individual inner world, a deep need for human contact sometimes arises, especially in depressive phases.
LSD from the Black MarketNonmedicinal LSD consumption can bring dangers of an entirely different type than hitherto discussed: for most of the LSD offered in the drug scene is of unknown origin. LSD preparations from the black market are unreliable when it comes to both quality and dosage. They rarely contain the declared quantity, but mostly have less LSD, often none at all, and sometimes even too much. In many cases other drugs or even poisonous substances are sold as LSD. These observations were made in our laboratory upon analysis of a great number of LSD samples from the black market. They coincide with the experiences of national drug control departments.
The unreliability in the strength of LSD preparations on the illicit drug market can lead to dangerous overdosage. Overdoses have often proved to be the cause of failed LSD experiments that led to severe psychic and physical breakdowns. Reports of alleged fatal LSD poisoning, however, have yet to be confirmed. Close scrutiny of such cases invariably established other causative factors.
The following case, which took place in 1970, is cited as an example of the possible dangers of black market LSD. We received for investigation from the police a drug powder distributed as LSD. It came from a young man who was admitted to the hospital in critical condition and whose friend had also ingested this preparation and died as a result. Analysis showed that the powder contained no LSD, but rather the very poisonous alkaloid strychnine.
If most black market LSD preparations contained less than the stated quantity and often no LSD at all, the reason is either deliberate falsification or the great instability of this substance. LSD is very sensitive to air and light. It is oxidatively destroyed by the oxygen in the air and is transformed into an inactive substance under the influence of light. This must be taken into account during the synthesis and especially during the production of stable, storable forms of LSD. Claims that LSD may easily be prepared, or that every chemistry student in a half-decent laboratory is capable of producing it, are untrue. Procedures for synthesis of LSD have indeed been published and are accessible to everyone. With these detailed procedures in hand, chemists would be able to carry out the synthesis, provided they had pure lysergic acid at their disposal; its possession today, however, is subject to the same strict regulations as LSD. In order to isolate LSD in pure crystalline form from the reaction solution and in order to produce stable preparations, however, special equipment and not easily acquired specific experience are required, owing (as stated previously) to the great instability of this substance.
Only in completely oxygen-free ampules protected from light is LSD absolutely stable. Such ampules, containing 100 µg (= 0.1 mg) LSD-tartrate (tartaric acid salt of LSD) in 1 cc of aqueous solution, were produced for biological research and medicinal use by the Sandoz firm. LSD in tablets prepared with additives that inhibit oxidation, while not absolutely stable, at least keeps for a longer time. But LSD preparations often found on the black market-LSD that has been applied in solution onto sugar cubes or blotting paper-decompose in the course of weeks or a few months.
With such a highly potent substance as LSD, the correct dosage is of paramount importance. Here the tenet of Paracelsus holds good: the dose determines whether a substance acts as a remedy or as a poison. A controlled dosage, however, is not possible with preparations from the black market, whose active strength is in no way guaranteed. One of the greatest dangers of non-medicinal LSD experiments lies, therefore, in the use of such preparations of unknown provenience.
The Case of Dr. LearyDr. Timothy Leary, who has become known worldwide in his role of drug apostle, had an extraordinarily strong influence on the diffusion of illegal LSD consumption in the United States. On the occasion of a vacation in Mexico in the year 1960, Leary had eaten the legendary "sacred mushrooms," which he had purchased from a shaman. During the mushroom inebriation he entered into a state of mystico-religious ecstasy, which he described as the deepest religious experience of his life. From then on, Dr. Leary, who at the time was a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated himself totally to research on the effects and possibilities of the use of psychedelic drugs. Together with his colleague Dr. Richard Alpert, he started various research projects at the university, in which LSD and psilocybin, isolated by us in the meantime, were employed.
The reintegration of convicts into society, the production of mystico-religious experiences in theologians and members of the clergy, and the furtherance of creativity in artists and writers with the help of LSD and psilocybin were tested with scientific methodology. Even persons like Aldous Huxley, Arthur Koestler, and Allen Ginsberg participated in these investigations. Particular consideration was given to the question, to what degree mental preparation and expectation of the subjects, along with the external milieu of the experiment, are able to influence the course and character of states of psychedelic inebriation.
In January 1963, Dr. Leary sent me a detailed report of these studies, in which he enthusiastically imparted the positive results obtained and gave expression to his beliefs in the advantages and very promising possibilities of such use of these active compounds. At the same time, the Sandoz firm received an inquiry about the supply of 100g LSD and 25 kg psilocybin, signed by Dr. Timothy Leary, from the Harvard University Department of Social Relations. The requirement for such an enormous quantity (the stated amounts correspond to 1 million doses of LSD and 2.5 million doses of psilocybin) was based on the planned extension of investigations to tissue, organ, and animal studies. We made the supply of these substances contingent upon the production of an import license on behalf of the U.S. health authorities. Immediately we received the order for the stated quantities of LSD and psilocybin, along with a check for $10,000 as deposit but without the required import license. Dr. Leary signed for this order, but no longer as lecturer at Harvard University, rather as president of an organization he had recently founded, the International Federation for Internal Freedom (IFIF). Because, in addition, our inquiry to the appropriate dean of Harvard University had shown that the university authorities did not approve of the continuation of the research project by Leary and Alpert, we canceled our offer upon return of the deposit.
Shortly thereafter, Leary and Alpert were discharged from the teaching staff of Harvard- University because the investigations, at first conducted in an academic milieu, had lost their scientific character. The experiments had turned into LSD parties.
The LSD trip-LSD as a ticket to an adventurous journey into new worlds of mental and physical experience-became the latest exciting fashion among academic youth, spreading rapidly from Harvard to other universities. Leary's doctrine-that LSD not only served to find the divine and to discover the self, but indeed was the most potent aphrodisiac yet discovered-surely contributed quite decisively to the rapid propagation of LSD consumption among the younger generation. Later, in an interview with the monthly magazine Playboy, Leary said that the intensification of sexual experience and the potentiation of sexual ecstasy by LSD was one of the chief reasons for the LSD boom.
After his expulsion from Harvard University, Leary was completely transformed from a psychology lecturer pursuing research, into the messiah of the psychedelic movement. He and his friends of the IFIF founded a psychedelic research center in lovely, scenic surroundings in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. I received a personal invitation from Dr. Leary to participate in a top-level planning session on psychedelic drugs, scheduled to take place there in August 1963. I would gladly have accepted this grand invitation, in which I was offered reimbursement for travel expenses and free lodging, in order to learn from personal observation the methods, operation, and the entire atmosphere of such a psychedelic research center, about which contradictory, to some extent very remarkable, reports were then circulating. Unfortunately, professional obligations kept me at that moment from flying to Mexico to get a picture at first hand of the controversial enterprise. The Zihuatanejo Research Center did not last long. Leary and his adherents were expelled from the country by the Mexican government. Leary, however, who had now become not only the messiah but also the martyr of the psychedelic movement, soon received help from the young New York millionaire William Hitchcock, who made a manorial house on his large estate in Millbrook, New York, available to Leary as new home and headquarters. Millbrook was also the home of another foundation for the psychedelic, transcendental way of life, the Castalia Foundation.
On a trip to India in 1965 Leary was converted to Hinduism. In the following year he founded a religious community, the League for Spiritual Discovery, whose initials give the abbreviation "LSD."
Leary's proclamation to youth, condensed in his famous slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out !", became a central dogma of the hippie movement. Leary is one of the founding fathers of the hippie cult. The last of these three precepts, "drop out," was the challenge to escape from bourgeois life, to turn one's back on society, to give up school, studies, and employment, and to dedicate oneself wholly to the true inner universe, the study of one's own nervous system, after one has turned on with LSD. This challenge above all went beyond the psychological and religious domain to assume social and political significance. It is therefore understandable that Leary not only became the enfant terrible of the university and among his academic colleagues in psychology and psychiatry, but also earned the wrath of the political authorities. He was, therefore, placed under surveillance, followed, and ultimately locked in prison. The high sentences-ten years' imprisonment each for convictions in Texas and California concerning possession of LSD and marijuana, and conviction (later overturned) with a sentence of thirty years' imprisonment for marijuana smuggling-show that the punishment of these offenses was only a pretext: the real aim was to put under lock and key the seducer and instigator of youth, who could not otherwise be prosecuted. On the night of 13-14 September 1970, Leary managed to escape from the California prison in San Luis Obispo. On a detour from Algeria, where he made contact with Eldridge Cleaver, a leader of the Black Panther movement living there in exile, Leary came to Switzerland and there petitioned for political asylum.
Meeting with Timothy LearyDr. Leary lived with his wife, Rosemary, in the resort town Villars-sur-Ollon in western Switzerland. Through the intercession of Dr. Mastronardi, Dr. Leary's lawyer, contact was established between us. On 3 September 1971, I met Dr. Leary in the railway station snack bar in Lausanne. The greeting was cordial, a symbol of our fateful relationship through LSD. Leary was medium-sized, slender, resiliently active, his brown face surrounded with slightly curly hair mixed with gray, youthful, with bright, laughing eyes. This gave Leary somewhat the mark of a tennis champion rather than that of a former Harvard lecturer. We traveled by automobile to Buchillons, where in the arbor of the restaurant A la Grande Forêt, over a meal of fish and a glass of white wine, the dialogue between the father and the apostle of LSD finally began.
I voiced my regret that the investigations with LSD and psilocybin at Harvard University, which had begun promisingly, had degenerated to such an extent that their continuance in an academic milieu became impossible.
My most serious remonstrance to Leary, however, concerned the propagation of LSD use among juveniles. Leary did not attempt to refute my opinions about the particular dangers of LSD for youth. He maintained, however, that I was unjustified in reproaching him for the seduction of immature persons to drug consumption, because teenagers in the United States, with regard to information and life experience, were comparable to adult Europeans. Maturity, with satiation and intellectual stagnation, would be reached very early in the United States. For that reason, he deemed the LSD experience significant, useful, and enriching, even for people still very young in years.
In this conversation, I further objected to the great publicity that Leary sought for his LSD and psilocybin investigations, since he had invited reporters from daily papers and magazines to his experiments and had mobilized radio and television. Emphasis was thereby placed on publicity rather than on objective information. Leary defended this publicity program because he felt it had been his fateful historic role to make LSD known worldwide. The overwhelmingly positive effects of such dissemination, above all among America's younger generation, would make any trifling injuries, any regrettable accidents as a result of improper use of LSD, unimportant in comparison, a small price to pay.
During this conversation, I ascertained that one did Leary an injustice by indiscriminately describing him as a drug apostle. He made a sharp distinction between psychedelic drugs-LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, hashish-of whose salutary effects he was persuaded, and the addicting narcotics morphine, heroin, etc., against whose use he repeatedly cautioned.
My impression of Dr. Leary in this personal meeting was that of a charming personage, convinced of his mission, who defended his opinions with humor yet uncompromisingly; a man who truly soared high in the clouds pervaded by beliefs in the wondrous effects of psychedelic drugs and the optimism resulting therefrom, and thus a man who tended to underrate or completely overlook practical difficulties, unpleasant facts, and dangers. Leary also showed carelessness regarding charges and dangers that concerned his own person, as his further path in life emphatically showed.
During his Swiss sojourn, I met Leary by chance once more, in February 1972, in Basel, on the occasion of a visit by Michael Horowitz, curator of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library in San Francisco, a library specializing in drug literature. We traveled together to my house in the country near Burg, where we resumed our conversation of the previous September. Leary appeared fidgety and detached, probably owing to a momentary indisposition, so that our discussions were less productive this time. That was my last meeting with Dr. Leary.
He left Switzerland at the end of the year, having separated from his wife, Rosemary, now accompanied by his new friend Joanna Harcourt-Smith. After a short stay in Austria, where he assisted in a documentary film about heroin, Leary and friend traveled to Afghanistan. At the airport in Kabul he was apprehended by agents of the American secret service and brought back to the San Luis Obispo prison in California.
After nothing had been heard from Leary for a long time, his name again appeared in the daily papers in summer 1975 with the announcement of a parole and early release from prison. But he was not set free until early in 1976. I learned from his friends that he was now occupied with psychological problems of space travel and with the exploration of cosmic relationships between the human nervous system and interstellar space-that is, with problems whose study would bring him no further difficulties on the part of governmental authorities.
Travels in the Universe of the SoulThus the Islamic scholar Dr. Rudolf Gelpke entitled his accounts of self-experiments with LSD and psilocybin, which appeared in the publication Antaios, for January 1962, and this title could also be used for the following descriptions of LSD experiments. LSD trips and the space flights of the astronauts are comparable in many respects. Both enterprises require very careful preparations, as far as measures for safety as well as objectives are concerned, in order to minimize dangers and to derive the most valuable results possible. The astronauts cannot remain in space nor the LSD experimenters in transcendental spheres, they have to return to earth and everyday reality, where the newly acquired experiences must be evaluated.
The following reports were selected in order to demonstrate how varied the experiences of LSD inebriation can be. The particular motivation for undertaking the experiments was also decisive in their selection. Without exception, this selection involves only reports by persons who have tried LSD not simply out of curiosity or as a sophisticated pleasure drug, but who rather experimented with it in the quest for expanded possibilities of experience of the inner and outer world; who attempted, with the help of this drug key, to unlock new "doors of perception" (William Blake); or, to continue with the comparison chosen by Rudolf Gelpke, who employed LSD to surmount the force of gravity of space and time in the accustomed world view, in order to arrive thereby at new outlooks and understandings in the "universe of the soul."
The first two of the following research records are taken from the previously cited report by Rudolf Gelpke in Antaios.
Dance of the Spirits in the Wind(0.075 mg LSD on 23 June 1961, 13:00 hours)After I had ingested this dose, which could be considered average, I conversed very animatedly with a professional colleague until approximately 14:00 hours. Following this, I proceeded alone to the Werthmüller bookstore where the drug now began to act most unmistakably. I discerned, above all, that the subjects of the books in which I rummaged peacefully in the back of the shop were indifferent to me, whereas random details of my surroundings suddenly stood out strongly, and somehow appeared to be "meaningful." . . . Then, after some ten minutes, I was discovered by a married couple known to me, and had to let myself become involved in a conversation with them that, I admit, was by no means pleasant to me, though not really painful either. I listened to the conversation (even to myself) " as from far away. " The things that were discussed (the conversation dealt with Persian stories that I had translated) "belonged to another world": a world about which I could indeed express myself (I had, after all, recently still inhabited it myself and remembered the "rules of the game"!), but to which I no longer possessed any emotional connection. My interest in it was obliterated-only I did not dare to let myself observe that.
After I managed to dismiss myself, I strolled farther through the city to the marketplace. I had no "visions," saw and heard everything as usual, and yet everything was also altered in an indescribable way; "imperceptible glassy walls" everywhere. With every step that I took, I became more and more like an automaton. It especially struck me that I seemed to lose control over my facial musculature-I was convinced that my face was grown stiff, completely expressionless, empty, slack and mask-like. The only reason I could still walk and put myself in motion, was because I remembered that, and how I had "earlier" gone and moved myself. But the farther back the recollection went, the more uncertain I became. I remember that my own hands somehow were in my way: I put them in my pockets, let them dangle, entwined them behind my back . . . as some burdensome objects, which must be dragged around with us and which no one knows quite how to stow away. I had the same reaction concerning my whole body. I no longer knew why it was there, and where I should go with it. All sense for decisions of that kind had been lost . They could only be reconstructed laboriously, taking a detour through memories from the past. It took a struggle of this kind to enable me to cover the short distance from the marketplace to my home, which I reached at about 15:10.
In no way had I had the feeling of being inebriated. What I experienced was rather a gradual mental extinction. It was not at all frightening; but I can imagine that in the transition to certain mental disturbances - naturally dispersed over a greater interval-a very similar process happens: as long as the recollection of the former individual existence in the human world is still present, the patient who has become unconnected can still (to some extent) find his way about in the world: later, however, when the memories fade and ultimately die out, he completely loses this ability.
Shortly after I had entered my room, the "glassy stupor" gave way. I sat down, with a view out of a window, and was at once enraptured: the window was opened wide, the diaphanous gossamer curtains, on the other hand, were drawn, and now a mild wind from the outside played with these veils and with the silhouettes of potted plants and leafy tendrils on the sill behind, which the sunlight delineated on the curtains breathing in the breeze. This spectacle captivated me completely. I "sank" into it, saw only this gentle and incessant waving and rocking of the plant shadows in the sun and the wind. I knew what "it" was, but I sought after the name for it, after the formula, after the "magic word" that I knew and already I had it: Totentanz, the dance of the dead.... This was what the wind and the light were showing me on the screen of gossamer. Was it frightening? Was I afraid? Perhaps-at first. But then a great cheerfulness infiltrated me, and I heard the music of silence, and even my soul danced with the redeemed shadows to the whistle of the wind. Yes, I understood: this is the curtain, and this curtain itself IS the secret, the "ultimate" that it concealed. Why, therefore, tear it up? He who does that only tears up himself. Because "there behind," behind the curtain, is "nothing.". . .
Polyp from the Deep(0.150 mg LSD on 15 April 1961, 9:15 hours)Beginning of the effect already after about 30 minutes with strong inner agitation, trembling hands, skin chills, taste of metal on the palate.Both the estrangement from the environment and the estrangement from the individual body, experienced in both of the preceding experiments described by Gelpke-as well as the feeling of an alien being, a demon, seizing possession of oneself-are features of LSD inebriation that, in spite of all the other diversity and variability of the experience, are cited in most research reports. I have already described the possession by the LSD demon as an uncanny experience in my first planned self-experiment. Anxiety and terror then affected me especially strongly, because at that time I had no way of knowing that the demon would again release his victim.
10:00: The environment of the room transforms itself into phosphorescent waves, running hither from the feet even through my body. The skin-and above all the toes-is as electrically charged; a still constantly growing excitement hinders all clear thoughts....
10:20: I lack the words to describe my current condition. It is as if an "other" complete stranger were seizing possession of me bit by bit. Have greatest trouble writing ("inhibited" or "uninhibited"?-I don't know!).
This sinister process of an advancing self-estrangement aroused in me the feeling of powerlessness, of being helplessly delivered up. Around 10:30, through closed eyes I saw innumerable, self-intertwining threads on a red background. A sky as heavy as lead appeared to press down on everything; I felt my ego compressed in itself, and I felt like a withered dwarf.... Shortly before 13:00 I escaped the more and more oppressing atmosphere of the company in the studio, in which we only hindered one another reciprocally from unfolding completely into the inebriation. I sat down in a small, empty room, on the floor, with my back to the wall, and saw through the only window on the narrow frontage opposite me a bit of gray- white cloudy sky. This, like the whole environment in general, appeared to be hopelessly normal at this moment. I was dejected, and my self seemed so repulsive and hateful to me that I had not dared (and on this day even had actually repeatedly desperately avoided) to look in a mirror or in the face of another person. I very much wished this inebriation were finally finished, but it still had my body totally in its possession. I imagined that I perceived, deep within its stubborn oppressive weight, how it held my limbs surrounded with a hundred polyp arms-yes, I actually experienced this in a mysterious rhythm; electrified contacts, as of a real, indeed imperceptible, but sinister omnipresent being, which I addressed with a loud voice, reviled, bid, and challenged to open combat. "It is only the projection of evil in your self," another voice assured me. "It is your soul monster!" This perception was like a flashing sword. It passed through me with redeeming sharpness. The polyp arms fell away from me-as if cut through-and simultaneously the hitherto dull and gloomy gray-white of the sky behind the open window suddenly scintillated like sunlit water. As I stared at it so enchanted, it changed (for me!) to real water: a subterranean spring overran me, which had ruptured there all at once and now boiled up toward me, wanted to become a storm, a lake, an ocean, with millions and millions of drops-and on all of these drops, on every single one of them, the light danced.... As the room, window, and sky came back into my consciousness (it was 13:25 hours), the inebriation was certainly not at an end-not yet-but its rearguard, which passed by me during the ensuing two hours, very much resembled the rainbow that follows the storm.
The adventures described in the following report, by a painter, belong to a completely different type of LSD experience. This artist visited me in order to obtain my opinion about how the experience under LSD should be understood and interpreted. He feared that the profound transformation of his personal life, which had resulted from his experiment with LSD, could rest on a mere delusion. My explanation-that LSD, as a biochemical agent, only triggered his visions but had not created them and that these visions rather originated from his own soul-gave him confidence in the meaning of his transformation.
LSD Experience of a Painter. . . Therefore I traveled with Eva to a solitary mountain valley. Up there in nature, I thought it would be particularly beautiful with Eva. Eva was young and attractive. Twenty years older than she, I was already in the middle of life. Despite the sorrowful consequences that I had experienced previously, as a result of erotic escapades, despite the pain and the disappointments that I inflicted on those who loved me and had believed in me, I was drawn again with irresistible power to this adventure, to Eva, to her youth. I was under the spell of this girl. Our affair indeed was only beginning, but I felt this seductive power more strongly than ever before. I knew that I could no longer resist. For the second time in my life I was again ready to desert my family, to give up my position, to break all bridges. I wanted to hurl myself uninhibitedly into this lustful inebriation with Eva. She was life, youth. Over again it cried out in me, again and again to drain the cup of lust and life until the last drop, until death and perdition. Let the Devil fetch me later on! I had indeed long ago done away with God and the Devil. They were for me only human inventions, which came to be utilized by a skeptical, unscrupulous minority, in order to suppress and exploit a believing, naive majority. I wanted to have nothing to do with this mendacious social moral. To enjoy, at all costs, I wished to enjoy et après nous le deluge. "What is wife to me, what is child to me-let them go begging, if they are hungry." I also perceived the institution of marriage as a social lie. The marriage of my parents and marriages of my acquaintances seemed to confirm that sufficiently for me. Couples remained together because it was more convenient; they were accustomed to it, and "yes, if it weren't for the children . . ." Under the pretense of a good marriage, each tormented the other emotionally, to the point of rashes and stomach ulcers, or each went his own way. Everything in me rebelled against the thought of having to love only one and the same woman a life long. I frankly perceived that as repugnant and unnatural. Thus stood my inner disposition on that portentous summer evening at the mountain lake.The following notes kept by a twenty-five-year-old advertising agent are contained in The LSD Story by John Cashman (Fawcett Publications, Greenwich, Conn., 1966). They were included in this selection of LSD reports, along with the preceding example, because the progression that they describe-from terrifying visions to extreme euphoria, a kind of death-rebirth cycle-is characteristic of many LSD experiments.
At seven o'clock in the evening both of us took a moderately strong dose of LSD, some 0.1 milligrams. Then we strolled along about the lake and then sat on the bank. We threw stones in the water and watched the forming wave circles. We felt a slight inner restlessness. Around eight o'clock we entered the hotel lounge and ordered tea and sandwiches. Some guests still sat there, telling jokes and laughing loudly. They winked at us. Their eyes sparkled strangely. We felt strange and distant and had the feeling that they would notice something in us. Outside it slowly became dark. We decided only reluctantly to go to our hotel room. A street without lights led along the black lake to the distant guest house. As I switched on the light, the granite staircase, leading from the shore road to the house, appeared to flame up from step to step. Eva quivered all at once, frightened. "Hellish" went through my mind, and all of a sudden horror passed through my limbs, and I knew: now it's going to turn out badly. From afar, from the village, a clock struck nine.
Scarcely were we in our room, when Eva threw herself on the bed and looked at me with wide eyes. It was not in the least possible to think of love. I sat down on the edge of the bed and held both of Eva's hands. Then came the terror. We sank into a deep, indescribable horror, which neither of us understood.
"Look in my eyes, look at me," I implored Eva, yet again and again her gaze was averted from me, and then she cried out loud in terror and trembled all over her body. There was no way out. Outside was only gloomy night and the deep, black lake. In the public house all the lights were extinguished; the people had probably gone to sleep. What would they have said if they could see us now? Possibly they would summon the police, and then everything would become still much worse. A drug scandal-intolerable agonizing thoughts.
We could no longer move from the spot. We sat there surrounded by four wooden walls whose board joints shone infernally. It became more unbearable all the time. Suddenly the door was opened and "something dreadful" entered. Eva cried out wildly and hid herself under the bed covers. Once again a cry. The horror under the covers was yet worse. "Look straight in my eyes!" I called to her, but she rolled her eyes back and forth as though out of her mind. She is becoming insane, I realized. In desperation I seized her by the hair so that she could no longer turn her face away from me. I saw dreadful fear in her eyes. Everything around us was hostile and threatening, as if everything wanted to attack us in the next moment. You must protect Eva, you must bring her through until morning, then the effects will discontinue, I said to myself. Then again, however, I plunged into nameless horror. There was no more time or reason; it seemed as if this condition would never end.
The objects in the room were animated to caricatures; everything on all sides sneered scornfully. I saw Eva's yellow-black striped shoes, which I had found so stimulating, appearing as two large, evil wasps crawling on the floor. The water piping above the washbasin changed to a dragon head, whose eyes, the two water taps, observed me malevolently. My first name, George, came into my mind, and all at once I felt like Knight George, who must fight for Eva.
Eva's cries tore me from these thoughts. Bathed in perspiration and trembling, she fastened herself to me. "I am thirsty," she moaned. With great effort, without releasing Eva's hand, I succeeded in getting a glass of water for her. But the water seemed slimy and viscous, was poisonous, and we could not quench our thirst with it. The two night-table lamps glowed with a strange brightness, in an infernal light. The clock struck twelve.
This is hell, I thought. There is indeed no Devil and no demons, and yet they were perceptible in us, filled up the room, and tormented us with unimaginable terror. Imagination, or not? Hallucinations, projections?-insignificant questions when confronted with the reality of fear that was fixed in our bodies and shook us: the fear alone, it existed. Some passages from Huxley's book The Doors of Perception came to me and brought me brief comfort. I looked at Eva, at this whimpering, horrified being in her torment, and felt great remorse and pity. She had become strange to me; I scarcely recognized her any longer. She wore a fine golden chain around her neck with the medallion of the Virgin Mary. It was a gift from her younger brother. I noticed how a benevolent, comforting radiation, which was connected with pure love, emanated from this necklace. But then the terror broke loose again, as if to our final destruction. I needed my whole strength to constrain Eva. Loudly I heard the electrical meter ticking weirdly outside of the door, as if it wanted to make a most important, evil, devastating announcement to me in the next moment. Disdain, derision, and malignity again whispered out of all nooks and crevices. There, in the midst of this agony, I perceived the ringing of cowbells from afar as a wonderful, promising music. Yet soon it became silent again, and renewed fear and dread once again set in. As a drowning man hopes for a rescuing plank, so I wished that the cows would yet again want to draw near the house. But everything remained quiet, and only the threatening tick and hum of the current meter buzzed round us like an invisible, malevolent insect.
Morning finally dawned. With great relief I noticed how the chinks in the window shutters lit up. Now I could leave Eva to herself; she had quieted down. Exhausted, she closed her eyes and fell asleep. Shocked and deeply sad, I still sat on the edge of the bed. Gone was my pride and self- assurance; all that remained of me was a small heap of misery. I examined myself in the mirror and started: I had become ten years older in the course of the night. Downcast, I stared at the light of the night-table lamp with the hideous shade of intertwined plastic cords. All at once the light seemed to become brighter, and in the plastic cords it began to sparkle and to twinkle; it glowed like diamonds and gems of all colors, and an overwhelming feeling of happiness welled up in me. All at once, lamp, room, and Eva disappeared, and I found myself in a wonderful, fantastic landscape. It was comparable to the interior of an immense Gothic church nave, with infinitely many columns and Gothic arches. These consisted, however, not of stone, but rather of crystal. Bluish, yellowish, milky, and clearly transparent crystal columns surrounded me like trees in an open forest. Their points and arches became lost in dizzying heights. A bright light appeared before my inner eye, and a wonderful, gentle voice spoke to me out of the light. I did not hear it with my external ear, but rather perceived it, as if it were clear thoughts that arise in one.
I realized that in the horror of the passing night I had experienced my own individual condition: selfishness. My egotism had kept me separated from mankind and had led me to inner isolation. I had loved only myself, not my neighbor; loved only the gratification that the other offered me. The world had existed only for the satisfaction of my greed. I had become tough, cold, and cynical. Hell, therefore, had signified that: egotism and lovelessness. Therefore everything had seemed strange and unconnected to me, so scornful and threatening. Amid flowing tears, I was enlightened with the knowledge that true love means surrender of selfishness and that it is not desires but rather selfless love that forms the bridge to the heart of our fellow man. Waves of ineffable happiness flowed through my body. I had experienced the grace of God. But how could it be possible that it was radiating toward me, particularly out of this cheap lampshade? Then the inner voice answered: God is in everything.
The experience at the mountain lake has given me the certainty that beyond the ephemeral, material world there also exists an imperishable, spiritual reality, which is our true home. I am now on my way home.
For Eva everything remained just a bad dream. We broke up a short time thereafter.
A Joyous Song of BeingMy first experience with LSD came at the home of a close friend who served as my guide. The surroundings were comfortably familiar and relaxing. I took two ampules (200 micrograms) of LSD mixed in half a glass of distilled water. The experience lasted for close to eleven hours, from 8 o'clock on a Saturday evening until very nearly 7 o'clock the next morning. I have no firm point of comparison, but I am positive that no saint ever saw more glorious or joyously beautiful visions or experienced a more blissful state of transcendence. My powers to convey the miracles are shabby and far too inadequate to the task at hand. A sketch, and an artless one at that, must suffice where only the hand of a great master working from a complete palette could do justice to the subject. I must apologize for my own limitations in this feeble attempt to reduce the most remarkable experience of my life to mere words. My superior smile at the fumbling, halting attempts of others in their attempts to explain the heavenly visions to me has been transformed into a knowing smile of a conspirator-the common experience requires no words.The preceding collection of reports on "travels in the universe of the soul," even though they encompass such dissimilar experiences, are still not able to establish a complete picture of the broad spectrum of all possible reactions to LSD, which extends from the most sublime spiritual, religious, and mystical experiences, down to gross psychosomatic disturbances. Cases of LSD sessions have been described in which the stimulation of fantasy and of visionary experience, as expressed in the LSD reports assembled here, is completely absent, and the experimenter was for the whole time in a state of ghastly physical and mental discomfort, or even felt severely ill.
My first thought after drinking the LSD was that it was having absolutely no effect. They had told me thirty minutes would produce the first sensation, a tingling of the skin. There was no tingling. I commented on this and was told to relax and wait. For the lack of anything else to do I stared at the dial light of the table radio, nodding my head to a jazz piece I did not recognize. I think it was several minutes before I realized that the light was changing color kaleidoscopically with the different pitch of the musical sounds, bright reds and yellows in the high register, deep purple in the low. I laughed. I had no idea when it had started. I simply knew it had. I closed my eyes, but the colored notes were still there. I was overcome by the remarkable brilliance of the colors. I tried to talk, to explain what I was seeing, the vibrant and luminous colors. Somehow it didn't seem important. With my eyes open, the radiant colors flooded the room, folding over on top of one another in rhythm with the music. Suddenly I was aware that the colors were the music. The discovery did not seem startling. Values, so cherished and guarded, were becoming unimportant. I wanted to talk about the colored music, but I couldn't. I was reduced to uttering one-syllable words while polysyllabic impressions tumbled through my mind with the speed of light.
The dimensions of the room were changing, now sliding into a fluttering diamond shape, then straining into an oval shape as if someone were pumping air into the room, expanding it to the bursting point. I was having trouble focusing on objects. They would melt into fuzzy masses of nothing or sail off into space, self-propelled, slow-motion trips that were of acute interest to me. I tried to check the time on my watch, but I was unable to focus on the hands. I thought of asking for the time, but the thought passed. I was too busy seeing and listening. The sounds were exhilarating, the sights remarkable. I was completely entranced. I have no idea how long this lasted. I do know the egg came next.
The egg, large, pulsating, and a luminous green, was there before I actually saw it. I sensed it was there. It hung suspended about halfway between where I sat and the far wall. I was intrigued by the beauty of the egg. At the same time I was afraid it would drop to the floor and break. I didn't want the egg to break. It seemed most important that the egg should not break. But even as I thought of this, the egg slowly dissolved and revealed a great multihued flower that was like no flower I have ever seen. Its incredibly exquisite petals opened on the room, spraying indescribable colors in every direction. I felt the colors and heard them as they played across my body, cool and warm, reedlike and tinkling.
The first tinge of apprehension came later when I saw the center of the flower slowly eating away at the petals, a black, shiny center that appeared to be formed by the backs of a thousand ants. It ate away the petals at an agonizingly slow pace. I wanted to scream for it to stop or to hurry up. I was pained by the gradual disappearance of the beautiful petals as if being swallowed by an insidious disease. Then in a flash of insight I realized to my horror that the black thing was actually devouring me. I was the flower and this foreign, creeping thing was eating me!
I shouted or screamed, I really don't remember. I was too full of fear and loathing. I heard my guide say: "Easy now. Just go with it. Don't fight it. Go with it." I tried, but the hideous blackness caused such repulsion that I screamed: "I can't! For God's sake help me! Help me!" The voice was soothing, reassuring: "Let it come. Everything is all right. Don't worry. Go with it. Don't fight."
I felt myself dissolving into the terrifying apparition, my body melting in waves into the core of blackness, my mind stripped of ego and life and, yes even death. In one great crystal instant I realized that I was immortal. I asked the question: "Am I dead?" But the question had no meaning. Meaning was meaningless. Suddenly there was white light and the shimmering beauty of unity. There was light everywhere, white light with a clarity beyond description. I was dead and I was born and the exultation was pure and holy. My lungs were bursting with the joyful song of being. There was unity and life and the exquisite love that filled my being was unbounded. My awareness was acute and complete. I saw God and the devil and all the saints and I knew the truth. I felt myself flowing into the cosmos, levitated beyond all restraint, liberated to swim in the blissful radiance of the heavenly visions.
I wanted to shout and sing of miraculous new life and sense and form, of the joyous beauty and the whole mad ecstasy of loveliness. I knew and understood all there is to know and understand. I was immortal, wise beyond wisdom, and capable of love, of all loves. Every atom of my body and soul had seen and felt God. The world was warmth and goodness. There was no time, no place, no me. There was only cosmic harmony. It was all there in the white light. With every fiber of my being I knew it was so.
I embraced the enlightenment with complete abandonment. As the experience receded I longed to hold onto it and tenaciously fought against the encroachment of the realities of time and place. For me, the realities of our limited existence were no longer valid. I had seen the ultimate realities and there would be no others. As I was slowly transported back to the tyranny of clocks and schedules and petty hatreds, I tried to talk of my trip, my enlightenment, the horrors, the beauty, all of it. I must have been babbling like an idiot. My thoughts swirled at a fantastic rate, but the words couldn't keep pace. My guide smiled and told me he understood.
Reports about the modification of sexual experience under the influence of LSD are also contradictory. Since stimulation of all sensory perception is an essential feature of LSD effects, the sensual orgy of sexual intercourse can undergo unimaginable enhancements. Cases have also been described, however, in which LSD led not to the anticipated erotic paradise, but rather to a purgatory or even to the hell of frightful extinction of every perception and to a lifeless vacuum.
Such a variety and contradiction of reactions to a drug is found only in LSD and the related hallucinogens. The explanation for this lies in the complexity and variability of the conscious and subconscious minds of people, which LSD is able to penetrate and to bring to life as experienced reality.
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