Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain
Chapter 2 of Acid Dreams, The Complete Social History of LSD:
The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond,
New York: Grove Weidenfeld. ©1985 by Lee & Shlain.
Note: Excerpts from Acid Dreams appear in this library
under the "Fair Use" rulings regarding the 1976 Copyright
Act for NON-profit academic, research, and general information
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for their library are advised to purchase it from their book supplier.
THE ORIGINAL CAPTAIN TRIPS
The stout crew-cut figure riding in the Rolls-Royce was a mystery
to those who knew him. A spy by profession, he lived a life of
intrigue and adventure befitting his chosen career. Born dirt
poor in Kentucky, he served with the OSS during the Second World
War and went on to make a fortune as a uranium entrepreneur. His
prestigious government and business connections read like a Who's
Who of the power elite in North America. His name was Captain
Alfred M. Hubbard. His friends called him "Cappy," and
he was known as the "Johnny Appleseed of LSD."
The blustery, rum-drinking Hubbard is widely credited with being
the first person to emphasize LSD's potential as a visionary or
transcendental drug. His faith in the LSD revelation was such
that he made it his life's mission to turn on as many men and
women as possible. "Most people are walking in their sleep,"
he said. "Turn them around, start them in the opposite direction
and they wouldn't even know the difference." But there was
a quick way to remedy thatgive them a good dose of LSD and
"let them see themselves for what they are."
That Hubbard, of all people, should have emerged as the first
genuine LSD apostle is all the more curious in light of his long-standing
affiliation with the cloak-and-dagger trade. Indeed, he was no
run-of-the-mill spook. As a high-level OSS officer, the Captain
directed an extremely sensitive covert operation that involved
smuggling weapons and war material to Great Britain prior to the
attack on Pearl Harbor. In pitch darkness he sailed ships without
lights up the coast to Vancouver, where they were refitted and
used as destroyers by the British navy. He also flew planes to
the border, took them apart, towed the pieces into Canada, and
sent them to England. These activities began with the quiet approval
of President Roosevelt nearly a year and a half before the US
officially entered the war. To get around the neutrality snag,
Hubbard became a Canadian citizen in a mock procedure. While based
in Vancouver Where he later settled he personally handled several
million dollars filtered by the OSS through the American consulate
to finance a multitude of covert operations in Europe. All this,
of course, was highly illegal, and President Truman later issued
a special pardon with kudos to the Captain and his men.
Not long after receiving this presidential commendation, Hubbard
was introduced to LSD by Dr. Ronald Sandison of Great Britain.
During his first acid trip in I95 I, he claimed to have witnessed
his own conception. "It was the deepest mystical thing I've
ever seen," the Captain recounted. "I saw myself as
a tiny mite in a big swamp with a spark of intelligence. I saw
my mother and father having intercourse. It was all clear."
Hubbard, then forty-nine years old, eagerly sought out others
familiar with hallucinogenic drugs. He contacted Dr. Humphry Osmond,
a young British psychiatrist who was working with LSD and mescaline
at Weyburn Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Like most other researchers
in the field, Osmond was primarily interested in psychosis and
mental illness. In I 9 5 2 he shocked the medical world by drawing
attention to the structural similarity between the mescaline and
adrenaline molecules, implying that schizophrenia might be a form
of self-intoxication caused by the body mistakenly producing its
own hallucinogenic compounds. Osmond noted that mescaline enabled
a normal person to see the world through the eyes of a schizophrenic,
and he suggested that the drug be used as a tool for training
doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel to understand their
patients from a more intimate perspective.
Osmond's research attracted widespread attention within scientific
circles. The CIA, ever intent on knowing the latest facts as early
as possible, quickly sent informants to find out what was happening
at Weyburn Hospital. Unbeknownst to Osmond and his cohorts, throughout
the next decade they were contacted on repeated occasions by Agency
personnel. Indeed, it was impossible for an LSD researcher not
to rub shoulders with the espionage establishment, for the CIA
was monitoring the entire scene.
Osmond's reports also caught the eye of Aldous Huxley, the eminent
British novelist who for years had been preoccupied with the specter
of drug-induced thought control. In 1931 Huxley wrote Brave
New World, a futuristic vision of a totalitarian society in
which the World Controllers chemically coerced the population
into loving its servitude. While Huxley grappled with the question
of human freedom under pharmacological attack, he also recognized
that certain drugs, particularly the hallucinogens, produced radical
changes in consciousness that could have a profound and beneficial
effect. Upon learning of Osmond's work, he decided to offer himself
as a guinea pig.
Huxley seemed like the perfect subject. A learned man steeped
in many disciplines, he was also gifted with a writer's eloquence.
Even if the drug confounded him, it would not tongue-tie him,
for he was a glorious talker. But Osmond was still a bit apprehensive.
"I did not relish the possibility, however remote, of being
the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad," he explained. His worries
proved to be unfounded.
In May 1953, less than a month after the CIA initiated Operation
MK-ULTRA, Huxley tried mescaline for the first time at his home
in Hollywood Hills, California, under Osmond's supervision. "It
was," according to Huxley, "without question the most
extraordinary and significant experience this side of the Beatific
Vision." Moreover, "it opens up a host of philosophical
problems, throws intense light and raises all manner of questions
in the field of aesthetics, religion, theory of knowledge."
Huxley described his mescaline adventure in his famous essay The
Doors of Perception (which took its title from the works of
William Blake, the eighteenth-century British poet and visionary
artist). With this book Huxley unabashedly declared himself a
propagandist for hallucinogenic drugs, and for the first time
a large segment of the educated public became aware of the existence
of these substances. Not surprisingly, the treatise created a
storm in literary circles. Some hailed it as a major intellectual
statement, others dismissed it as pure quackery. Few critics realized
that the book would have such an enormous impact in years to come.
In The Doors of Perception Huxley elaborated on Henri Bergson's
theory that the brain and the nervous system are not the source
of the cognitive process but rather a screening mechanism or "reducing
valve" that transmits but a tiny fraction of "the Mind-at-Large,"
yielding only the kind of information necessary for everyday matters
of survival. If this screening mechanism was temporarily suspended,
if the doors of perception were suddenly thrust open by a chemical
such as mescaline or LSD, then the world would appear in an entirely
new light. When he looked at a small vase of flowers, the mescalinized
Huxley saw "what Adam had seen on the morning of creationthe
miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence...flowers shining
with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure
of the significance with which they were charged.... Words like
'grace' and 'transfiguration' came to my mind."
Huxley obviously was not undergoing an "imitation psychosis."
On the contrary, he contended that the chemical mind-changers,
when administered in the right kind of situation, could lead to
a full-blown mystical experience. He went so far as to predict
that a religious revival would "come about as the result
of biochemical discoveries that will make it possible for large
numbers of men and women to achieve a radical self-transcendence
and a deeper understanding of the nature of things."
Huxley recognized that the perceptions afforded by hallucinogens
bore a striking similarity to experiences achieved without the
use of drugs, either spontaneously or through various spiritual
exercises. His writings reflected more than a passing interest
in nonchemical methods of altering consciousness, such as hypnosis,
sensory deprivation, prolonged sleeplessness, fastingtechniques
closely scrutinized by the CIA as well, but for vastly different
reasons. Whereas the CIA sought to impose an altered state on
its victims in order to control them, Huxley's explorations were
self-directed and designed to expand consciousness. He was well
aware of the potential dangers of behavior modification techniques
and constantly warned of their abuse. Thus it is ironic that he
unknowingly consorted with a number of scientists who were engaged
in mind control research for the CIA and the US military.
While writing Heaven and Hell (the sequel to The Doors
of Perception) in 1955, Huxley had his second mescaline experience,
this time in the company of Captain Al Hubbard. They were joined
by philosopher Gerald Heard, a close friend of Huxley's. "Your
nice Captain tried a new experimentgroup mescalinization,"
Huxley wrote to Osmond. "Since I was in a group, the experience
had a human content, which the earlier, solitary experience, with
its Other Worldly quality and its intensification of aesthetic
experience, did not possess.... it was a transcendental experience
within this world and with human references."
Later that same year, with the Captain again acting as a guide,
Huxley took his first dose of LSD. Although he consumed only a
tiny amount, the experience was highly significant. "What
came through the closed door," he stated, "was the realizationnot
the knowledge, for this wasn't verbal or abstractbut the direct,
total awareness, from the inside, so to say, of Love as the primary
and fundamental cosmic fact. These words, of course, have a kind
of indecency and must necessarily ring false, seem like twaddle.
But the fact remains...I was this fact; or perhaps it would be
more accurate to say that this fact occupied the place where I
Huxley and his LSD mentor were a most improbable duo. The coarse,
uneducated Captain lacked elegance and restraint (''I'm just a
born son of a bitch!" he bellowed), while the tall, slender
novelist epitomized the genteel qualities of the British intellectual.
Yet the two men were evidently quite taken by each other. Huxley
spoke admiringly of "the good Captain" whose uranium
exploits served "as a passport into the most exalted spheres
of government, business, and ecclesiastical polity." In a
letter to Osmond he commented, "What Babes in the Wood we
literary gents and professional men are! The great World occasionally
requires your services, is mildly amused by mine; but its full
attention and deference are paid to Uranium and Big Business.
So what extraordinary luck that this representative of both these
Higher Powers should (a) have become so passionately interested
in mescalin and (b) be such a very nice man. "
Despite their markedly different styles Huxley and Hubbard shared
a unique appreciation of the revelatory aspect of hallucinogenic
drugs. It was Hubbard who originally suggested that an LSD-induced
mystical experience might harbor unexplored therapeutic potential.
He administered large doses of acid to gravely ill alcoholics
with the hope that the ensuing experience would lead to a drastic
and permanent change in the way they viewed themselves and the
world. (According to Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous,
the most important factor in recovery for alcoholics is "a
deep and genuine religious experience.") Once the individual's
rigidified notion of himself had been shattered, "extensive
emotional reeducation" was much more likely. At this point
the Captain took over. By using religious symbols to trigger psychic
responses, he attempted to assist the patient in forming a new
and healthier frame of reference that would carry over after the
drug wore off. Hubbard found that everyone who went through this
process seemed to benefit from it. A number of former alcoholics
described their recovery as nothing short of "miraculous."
Buoyed by these results, the Captain proceeded to establish LSD
treatment centers at three major hospitals in Canada, most notably
Hollywood Hospital in Vancouver, where he resided.
Dr. Humphry Osmond was also working with alcoholics in Saskatchewan,
but initially he approached the problem from a different vantage
point. Osmond noted that some alcoholics decided to give up the
bottle only after they "hit bottom" and suffered the
withdrawal symptoms of delirium tremens. Could a large
dose of LSD or mescaline simulate a controlled attack of the DTs?
A "model delirium tremens," so to speak, would
be considerably less dangerous than the real thing, which normally
occurs after years of heavy drinking and often results in death.
Osmond's hypothesis was still rooted in the psychotomimetic tradition.
But then Hubbard came along and turned the young psychiatrist
on to the religious meaning of his "madness mimicking"
drug. The Captain showed Osmond how to harness LSD's transcendent
potential. Nearly a thousand hard-core alcoholics received high-dose
LSD treatment at Weyburn Hospital, and the rate of recovery was
significantly higher than for other forms of therapyan astounding
Osmond and his coworkers considered LSD the most remarkable drug
they had ever come across. They saw no reason to restrict their
studies to alcoholics. If LSD changed the way sick people looked
at the world, would it not have as powerful an effect on others
as well? With this in mind Osmond and Hubbard came up with the
idea that LSD could be used to transform the belief systems of
world leaders and thereby further the cause of world peace. Although
few are willing to disclose the details of these sessions, a close
associate of Hubbard's insisted that they "affected the thinking
of the political leadership of North America." Those said
to have participated in the LSD sessions include a prime minister,
assistants to heads of state, UN representatives, and members
of the British parliament. "My job," said Hubbard, "was
to sit on the couch next to the psychiatrist and put the people
through it, which I did."
Hubbard's influence on the above-ground research scene went far
beyond the numerous innovations he introduced: high-dose therapy,
group sessions, enhancing the drug effect with strobe lights,
and ESP experiments while under the influence of LSD. His impressive
standing among business and political leaders in the United States
and Canada enabled him to command large supplies of the hallucinogen,
which he distributed freely to friends and researchers at considerable
personal expense. "Cost me a couple of hundred thousand dollars,"
he boasted. "I had six thousand bottles of it to begin with."
When Dr. Ross MacLean, the medical director at Hollywood Hospital
in Vancouver, suggested that they form a partnership and set a
price for administering LSD, Hubbard would hear nothing of it.
For the Captain had "a mission," as he put it, and making
money never entered the picture.
Hubbard promoted his cause with indefatigable zeal, crisscrossing
North America and Europe, giving LSD to anyone who would stand
still. "People heard about it, and they wanted to try it,"
he explained. During the 1950s and early 1960S he turned on thousands
of people from all walks of lifepolicemen, statesmen, captains
of industry, church figures, scientists. "They all thought
it was the most marvelous thing," he stated. "And I
never saw a psychosis in any one of these cases."
When certain US medical officials complained that Hubbard was
not a licensed physician and therefore should not be permitted
to administer drugs, the Captain just laughed and bought a doctors
degree from a diploma mill in Kentucky. "Dr." Hubbard
had such remarkable credentials that he received special permission
from Rome to administer LSD within the context of the Catholic
faith. "He had kind of an incredible way of getting that
sort of thing, " said a close associate who claimed to have
seen the papers from the Vatican.
Hubbard's converts included the Reverend J. E. Brown, a Catholic
priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary in Vancouver. After
his initiation into the psychedelic mysteries, Reverend Brown
recommended the experience to members of his parish. In a letter
to the faithful dated December 8, 1957, he wrote, "We humbly
ask Our Heavenly Mother the Virgin Mary, help of all who call
upon Her to aid us to know and understand the true qualities of
these psychedelics, the full capacities of man's noblest faculties
and according to God's laws to use them for the benefit of mankind
here and in eternity."
Like a molecule at full boil, the Captain moved about at high
speeds in all directions. He traveled around the world in his
own plane (he was a registered pilot and master of sea vessels),
buying up LSD and stashing it, swapping different drugs, and building
an underground supply. "I scattered it as I went along,"
he recalled. With his leather pouch full of "wampum"
he rode the circuit, and those on the receiving end were always
grateful. "We waited for him like the little old lady on
the prairie waiting for a copy of the Sears Roebuck catalogue,"
said Dr. Oscar Janiger, a Los Angeles psychiatrist.
Dr. Janiger was part of a small circle of scientists and literary
figures in the Los Angeles area who began to use psychedelics
at social gatherings in the mid- I 95 OS. In addition to Huxley
and Gerald Heard, those who participated in these drug-inspired
intellectual discussions included philosopher Alan Watts, deep-sea
diver Perry Bivens, and researchers Sidney Cohen, Keith Ditman,
and Arthur Chandler. This informal group was the first to use
LSD socially rather than clinically. Captain Al Hubbard, the wandering
shaman who visited southern California on a regular basis, supplied
the group with various chemicals.
"Something had to be done and I tried to do it, " Hubbard
explained. He was, in his own words, "a catalytic agent"
who had a "special, chosen role." While this is certainly
an accurate appraisal, he was also another kind of agentan
intelligence agentwhich raises some intriguing questions about
what he was really up to.
After his legendary exploits with the OSS, the Captain continued
to serve as an undercover operative for various agencies within
the US government. He had many contacts with the FBI, for example,
and he claimed to be a close friend of J. Edgar Hoover's. "That
old bugger was tough, really tough, " Hubbard said with admiration.
But when he tried to turn on the FBI chief, Hoover stubbornly
declined. However, the Captain did manage to give the drug to
"some top intelligence men in Washington, always with good
During the early 1950s Hubbard was asked to join the CIA, but
he refused. "They lied so much, cheated so much. I don't
like 'em," he snarled. "They're lousy deceivers, sons
of the devils themselves." The Captain's beef with the Agency
stemmed in part from his unsuccessful attempt to secure back pay
owed to him from his OSS days. "They crooked me," he
Hubbard was unkindly disposed toward the CIA for other reasons
as well. Most important, he didn't approve of what the Agency
was doing with his beloved LSD. "The CIA work stinks, "
he said. "They were misusing it. I tried to tell them how
to use it, but even when they were killing people, you couldn't
tell them a goddamned thing. " (Hubbard was certain that
Frank Olson was not the only person who died as a result of the
CIA's surprise acid tests.)
"I don't know how Al's Washington affairs were done,"
Dr. Osmond admitted. "He was one of those naturally brilliant
wheeler-dealers." Indeed, Hubbard seemed to have a knack
for popping up in the most unpredictable places. He worked for
the Treasury Department as a young man during the Capone days,
busting moonshiners and gangsters who were smuggling liquor into
the US from Canada. Apparently he was able to ingratiate himself
with both sides during Prohibition, as he subsequently became
deputy chief of security for the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas.
"Those Mafia men were always interesting to talk to,"
Hubbard remarked, "but they never smiled."
The Captain also engaged in undercover work for a number of other
government agencies, including the Federal Narcotics Bureau and
the Food and Drug Administration tat a time when both organizations
were assisting the CIA's drug testing programs). During the mid-1960s
he was employed by Teledyne, a major defense subcontractor, as
"director of human factors research." In this capacity
Hubbard served as adviser and consultant to a combined navy and
NASA project that involved testing the effects of psychochemical
agents on a newly designed "helicopter avionics system."
Teledyne worked closely with various government organizations,
including the CIA, to apply these techniques to additional areas
of military interest.
While Hubbard was not a CIA operative per se, his particular area
of expertisehallucinogenic drugsbrought him into close contact
with elements of the espionage community. The CIA must have known
what he was up to, since Sandoz and the FDA kept the Agency informed
whenever anyone received shipments of LSD. The Captain, of course,
was one of their best customers, having purchased large amounts
of the drug on different occasions.
In a sense "the mysterious Al" embodies the irony and
ambiguity of the LSD story as a whole. As one of his friends put
it, "Cappy was sort of a double agent. He worked for the
government, but in his own way he was a rebel." Some call
him a "witch doctor," others describe him as "an
incurable scoundrel." A most unlikely combination of mystic
and redneck, Hubbard above all remains an enigma.
"Al Hubbard was a very strange man," confided a fellow
drug researcher, "but he probably knew more about LSD than
anyone else in the world." And while his tale has many gaps
and fuzzy edges, this much can be established beyond a shadow
of a doubt: his enthusiasm for LSD never waned. "Anyone who'll
try to tell me that this has all been a big hallucination has
got to be out of their mind. . . . What I've seen with it has
been the truth and nothing but the truth. "
And as a parting shot he added, "If you don't think it's
amazing, all I've got to say is just go ahead and try it."
By the late 1950s, according to Robert Bernstein, former assistant
surgeon general of the American army, "perhaps by coincidence,
LSD was almost simultaneously recognized by the army as a military
threat and by certain segments of our US population as a means
for self-fulfillment." What puzzling characteristics does
LSD possess that give rise to such disparate and seemingly contradictory
points of view? How could the same drug be hailed as an unparalleled
avenue to transcendental or visionary experiences and denounced
as an agent of psychotic interludes?
Originally researchers viewed LSD solely in terms of its ability
to create an experimental toxic psychosis. The LSD experience
was synonymous with LSD psychosis"good trips" were
no exception. This frame of reference, uniformly shared by scientists
at the outset of the 1950s, was typified by the comment of a CIA
agent involved in the MK-ULTRA program: "Tripping and psychosis
are one and the same. Tripping can be an awful schizoid feeling.
Also there are hebephrenicshappy schizos. Their experience
is similar to a good trip. "
Within a few years, however, reports with a different message
began to circulate from Canada. After meeting Captain Hubbard,
a small circle of researchers based in Saskatchewan broke with
the psychotomimetic definition and started exploring new directions.
Dr. Osmond noticed a significant discrepancy between the usual
description of the drug experience as a close encounter with lunacy
and the kinds of experiences reported by his patients when they
were given LSD for their alcoholic problems. They often spoke
of an LSD session as insightful and rewarding. Many subjects invoked
superlatives, calling it an experience of great beauty. As the
research at Weyburn Hospital progressed, it became apparent to
Osmond and his cohorts that most people who took LSD did not become
The terminology used to describe the LSD experience in the scientific
literature did not sit well with Osmond. Words like hallucination
and psychosis were loaded; they implied negative states
of mind. The psychiatric jargon reflected a pathological orientation,
whereas a truly objective science would not impose value judgments
on chemicals that produced unusual or altered states of consciousness.
Aldous Huxley also felt that the language of pathology was inadequate.
He and Osmond agreed that a new word had to be invented to encompass
the full range of effects of these drugs.
The two men had been close friends ever since Huxley's initial
mescaline experience, and they carried on a lively correspondence.
At first Huxley proposed the word phanerothyme, which derived
from roots relating to "spirit" or "soul."
A letter to Osmond included the following couplet:
To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a Gramme of phanerothyme.
To which Osmond responded:
To fathom hell or soar angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.
And so it came to pass that the word psychedelic was coined.
Osmond introduced it to the psychiatric establishment in 1957.
Addressing a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences, he argued
that hallucinogenic drugs did "much more" than mimic
psychosis, and therefore an appropriate name must "include
concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision."
He suggested a neutral term to replace psychotomimetic,
and his choice was certainly vague enough. Literally translated,
psychedelic means "mind-manifesting," implying
that drugs of this category do not produce a predictable sequence
of events but bring to the fore whatever is latent within the
unconscious. Accordingly Osmond recognized that LSD could be a
valuable tool for psychotherapy. This notion represented a marked
departure from the military-medical paradigm, which held that
every LSD experience was automatically an experimental psychosis.
Dr. Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD, thought Osmond's
choice appropriate, for it "corresponds better to the effects
of these drugs than hallucinogenic or psychotomimetic."
The model psychosis concept was further called into question by
published reports demonstrating that in many ways the comparison
between naturally occurring and LSD-induced psychosis was facile.
During the mid-1950s, researchers John MacDonald and James Galvin
pointed out that schizophrenics did not experience the wealth
of visual hallucinations common with LSD and mescaline but were
prone to auditory aberrations, unlike drug subjects. Oddly enough,
true schizophrenics hardly reacted to LSD unless given massive
As the psychotomimetic paradigm began to weaken, the focus shifted
toward investigating the therapeutic potential of LSD. Two forms
of LSD therapy arose in the 1950s. The "psycholytic"
or "mind-loosening" approach utilized low or moderate
dosages of LSD as an adjunct to conventional psychoanalysis. Employed
in repeated sessions, the drug was said to speed up the process
of psychoexploration by reducing the patient's defensiveness and
facilitating the recollection of repressed memories and traumatic
experiences. Stripped of his censorious attitude, the subject
might experience a catharsis in a detached and heightened state
of awareness, allowing him to retain his insights after the effects
of the chemical subsided. The low-dose technique was practiced
primarily in England, where Dr. Ronald Sandison established the
first LSD clinic open to the public in I953. Before long, additional
centers specializing in this type of therapy sprang up in Germany,
Holland, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia and several Scandinavian
A different approach caught on more quickly in Canada and the
United States. Psychedelic therapy, developed by Captain Al Hubbard
and popularized by Dr. Humphry Osmond, was geared toward achieving
a mystical or conversion experience. The procedure involved high
dosages of LSD, precluding any possibility that the patient's
ego defenses could withstand psychic dissolution.
According to this therapeutic model, as the drug starts to take
effect there is an unfixing of perceptual constants and the subject's
habitual reality ties are suspended. It is as though one were
suddenly thrust into a Van Gogh canvas; objects ripple and breathe,
an onrush of stimuli bombard and penetrate the body. Sensory functions
overlap in a manner that might best be described as polymorphously
perverse: one can "hear" colors and "see"
sounds. The world is felt to be an extension of the flesh. Existence
is no longer a riddle to be solved but a mystery to behold.
During the apotheosis of the acid high, the self-concept may be
diminished to the point of depersonalization. As poet Octavio
Paz describes in Alternating Current, "The self disappears,
but no other self appears to occupy the empty space it has left.
No god but rather the divine. No faith but rather the primordial
feeling that sustains all faith, all hope. Peace in the crater
of the volcano, the reconciliation of manwhat remains of manwith
This state of consciousness was thought to be conducive to healing
deep-rooted psychological wounds. The task of the therapist was
to help the patient understand and assimilate the experience in
a way that would maximize personal growth. Best results were obtained
when the therapist shed his "doctor" status and assumed
the role of guide or mentor, intervening only to help the initiate
relax and "go with the flow." To succeed, the therapist
had to be well acquainted with the psychedelic terrain; this familiarity
could only be gained by taking the drug and learning to direct
a positive experience. (Osmond's Golden Rule: "You start
with yourself.") It was not uncommon for a guide to take
a small amount of LSD during the therapy session to increase his
rapport with his patient.
Originally tested on alcoholics in Canada with remarkable results,
high-dose therapy was subsequently applied to a wide range of
diagnostic categories: juvenile delinquency, narcotics addiction,
severe character neurosis, and the like. This approach was particularly
effective in treating people who were emotionally blocked; they
were able to cut through a lot of psychological red tape, so to
speak, and get right to the heart of the matter. Oftentimes those
who underwent psychedelic therapy reported dramatic personality
changes involving not only the relief of neurotic symptoms but
a wholesale revamping of value systems, religious and philosophical
beliefs, and basic lifestyle. Numerous patients claimed that a
few LSD trips proved more fruitful than years of psychoanalysisat
considerably less expense. In some cases spectacular success was
achieved with only one dose of the drug.
LSD was the talk of the town in Hollywood and Beverly Hills in
the late I 9 5 OS as various movie stars were dosed on the psychiatrists
couch. Participants in such sessions included several of the glamour
elite, each capable of generating a flash of publicity. Cary Grant
first took LSD under the guidance of Dr. Mortimer Hartmann and
then with Dr. Oscar Janiger. His therapy was such a success that
he became a zealous missionary for LSD. "All my life,"
Grant stated, "I've been searching for peace of mind. I'd
explored yoga and hypnotism and made several attempts at mysticism.
Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment.
" People from all walks of life echoed Grant's plaudits for
the drug, and psychiatrists who practiced LSD therapy were inundated
Beatific, oceanic, redemptivethese words have been used to
describe the peak of an LSD trip. But there is another side to
it. To be cast about as flotsam in the power draughts of the universe
can be a hellish as well as a heavenly ordeal. Both possibilities
are rooted in the experience of depersonalization or ego loss.
The CIA was not interested in the therapeutic applications of
LSD. On the contrary, the men of ARTICHOKE and MK-ULTRA defined
the drug as an anxiety-producing agent, and they realized it would
be relatively easy to "break" a person who was exposed
to highly stressful stimuli while high on acid. As one CIA document
instructed, "[Whatever] reduces integrative capacity may
serve to increase the possibility of an individual being overwhelmed
by frustrations and conflicts hitherto managed successfully."
The powerful ego-shattering effects of LSD were ideally suited
for this purpose. CIA and military interrogators proceeded to
utilize the drug as an instrument of psychological torture.
That LSD can be used to heal as well as maim underscores an essential
point: non-drug factors play an important role in determining
the subject's response. LSD has no standard effects that are purely
pharmacological in nature; the enormous range of experiences produced
by the chemical stems from differences in (1) the character structure
and attitudinal predispositions (or "set") of the subject,
and (2) the immediate situation (or "setting"). If LSD
is given in a relaxed and supportive environment and the subject
is coached beforehand, the experience can be intensely gratifying.
As Dr. Janiger put it, "LSD favors the prepared mind."
For the unprepared mind, however, LSD can be a nightmare. When
the drug is administered in a sterile laboratory under fluorescent
lights by white-coated physicians who attach electrodes and nonchalantly
warn the subject that he will go crazy for a while, the odds favor
a psychotomimetic reaction, or "bummer."
This became apparent to poet Allen Ginsberg when he took LSD for
the first time at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto,
California, in 1959. Ginsberg was already familiar with psychedelic
substances, having experimented with peyote on a number of occasions.
As yet, however, there was no underground supply of LSD, and it
was virtually impossible for layfolk to procure samples of the
drug. Thus he was pleased when Gregory Bateson,
anthropologist, put him in touch with a team of doctors in Palo
Alto. Ginsberg had no way of knowing that one of the researchers
associated with the institute, Dr. Charles Savage, had conducted
hallucinogenic drug experiments for the US Navy in the early 1950s.
The experiment was conducted in a small room full of medical equipment
and EEG machines, with no outer windows. Ginsberg was advised
that he could listen to whatever music he wanted, so he chose
Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and a recording of Gertrude
Stein. "For some reason," he recalled, "I thought
you were supposed to lie down like in a hospital on a psychiatrist's
couch and let something slowly engulf you, which is what happened.
I lay down and something slowly engulfed me. " As he started
getting high, Ginsberg was put through a series of psychological
testsword association, Rorschach inkblots, arithmetic problemswhich
struck him as quite absurd at the time. "What difference
does it make?" he kept asking the attendants. While they
measured his psychological responses, the poethaving read Huxleywas
waiting for God to show up inside his brain.
When it came time for the EEG tests, Ginsberg proposed a rather
unusual experiment that had been suggested by his friend William
S. Burroughs. He wanted to see what would happen if he looked
at a stroboscope blinking in synchronization with his alpha rhythms
while he was high on acid. The doctors connected the flicker machine
to the EEG apparatus so that the alpha waves emanating from his
brain set off the strobe effect. "It was like watching my
own inner organism," said Ginsberg. "There was no distinction
between inner and outer. Suddenly I got this uncanny sense that
I was really no different than all of this mechanical machinery
around me. I began thinking that if I let this go on, something
awful would happen. I would be absorbed into the electrical network
grid of the entire nation. Then I began feeling a slight crackling
along the hemispheres of my skull. I felt my soul being sucked
out through the light into the wall socket and going out."
Ginsberg had had enough. He asked the doctors to turn the flicker
machine off, but the "high anxiety" lingered. The clinical
atmosphere of the laboratory made it hard for him to relax. As
the trip wore on, he got deeper and deeper into a tangle: "I
had the impression that I was an insignificant speck on a giant
spider web, and that the spider was slowly coming to get me, and
that the spider was God or the DevilI wasn't surebut I was
the victim. I thought I was trapped in a giant web or network
of forces beyond my control that were perhaps experimenting with
me or were perhaps from another planet or were from some super-government
or cosmic military or science-fiction Big Brother."
Ginsberg spent the evening at the home of Dr. Joe Adams, the man
who supervised the experiment. He retired to his room and tried
to describe his first acid trip. While still high, he composed
the poem "Lysergic Acid," which begins with the following
It is a multiple million eyed monster
it is hidden in all its elephants and selves
it hummeth in the electric typewriter
it is electricity connected to itself, if it hath wires
it is a vast Spiderweb
and I am on the last millionth infinite tentacle of the spiderweb,
lost, separated, a worm, a thought, a self. . .
I allen Ginsberg a separate consciousness
I who want to be God . . .
It might appear that such ordeals amounted to a ravaging of the
soul rather than its redemption. But Ginsberg thought otherwise.
He and the other poets and artists associated with the beat generation
sampled a veritable pharmacopoeia of different drugs in various
dosages and combinations, and publicly extolled their virtues.
They too viewed psychedelics as "truth drugs," but unlike
the CIA they were not attempting to control someone else's mind.
Rather, they used these substances to assert their creative autonomy.
Most of all, the beats wanted to speak the truth about their lives.
While the CIA prowled around in secret and hoarded information,
the beats were open and candid about their chemically illumined
voyages. Intoxicated states were the keystone of beat literature,
and they chronicled their insights in poetry and prose. Occasionally
they tripped together in small groups and later compared notes
on how best to approach a psychedelic session. The beats were
mapping uncharted zones of the human psyche, an effort Ginsberg
likened to "being part of a cosmic conspiracy. . . to resurrect
a lost art or a lost knowledge or a lost consciousness."
The beats' drug shamanism was bound up with romantic excess. In
the midst of the spiritual blackout of the Cold War they searched
for a "final fix" that would afford the vision of all
visions. Their affinity for psychedelics reflected as much a desire
to escape from a world they found unbearable as to tap the hidden
realms of the psyche. Drugs were instrumental in catalyzing their
rebellion against the overwhelming conformity of American culture.
The beats had nothing but contempt for the strictures of a society
anally fixated on success, cleanliness, and material possession.
Whatever the mainstream tried to conceal, denigrate, or otherwise
purge from experience, the beats flaunted. Their hunger for new
sensations led them to seek transcendence through jazz, marijuana,
Buddhist meditation, and the frenetic pace of the hip lifestyle.
It was the beats who railed most forcefully against the ghostly
reserve of the 1950s. They understood that the problem was largely
social in nature, but it was so extreme that the only sensible
response was to become antisocial, to retreat into small groups
or cabals of like-minded individuals and pursue radical options
outside the cultural norm. The beats were pitchmen for another
kind of consciousness. They encouraged the youth of America to
take their first groping steps toward a psychological freedom
from convention that opened the door to all manner of chemical
experimentation. The beats bequeathed an inquisitive attitude,
a precocious "set" for approaching the drug experience.
As cultural expatriates they linked psychedelics to a tiny groundswell
of nonconformity that would grow into a mass rebellion during
the next decade.
Psychosis or Gnosis?
Therapeutic studies in the 1950s opened up new areas of investigation
for a growing number of young psychiatrists. A particularly promising
avenue of inquiry involved using LSD as a tool to explore the
creative attributes of the mind. Dr. Oscar Janiger (the first
person in the US to conduct a clinical investigation of DMT, or
dimethyltryptamine, an extremely powerful short-acting psychedelic)
noted that many of his patients reported vivid aesthetic perceptions
frequently leading to a greater appreciation of the arts. One
of his subjects claimed that a single acid trip was equal to "four
years in art school" and urged Janiger to give the drug to
other artists. This led to an experiment in which one hundred
painters drew pictures before, during, and after an LSD experience.
Everyone who participated considered their post-LSD creations
personally more meaningful. Impressed by these results, Janiger
proceeded to administer the psychedelic to various writers, actors,
musicians, and film-makers, including such notables as Anais Nin,
Andre Previn, Jack Nicholson, James Coburn, Ivan Tors, and the
great stand-up comedian Lord Buckley.
While some interesting and highly original works of art have been
produced during the acid high, the creative effects of LSD cannot
be measured solely in terms of immediate artistic output. Even
more important is the enlargement of vision, the acute awareness
of vaster potentials that persists long after the drug has worn
off. Janiger's subjects frequently commented on the affinity between
the drug-induced state and "what they felt might be an essential
matrix from which the imaginative process derives." Author
William Burroughs, who experimented with hallucinogens on his
own, agreed with this assessment: "Under the influence of
mescaline I have had the experience of seeing a painting for the
first time, and I found later that I could see the painting without
using the drug. The same insights into music or the exposure to
a powerful consciousness-expanding drug often conveys a permanent
increase in the range of experience. Mescaline transports the
user to unexplored psychic areas, and he can often find the way
back without a chemical guide."
The suggestion that LSD might enhance creativity was vigorously
disputed by certain studies purporting to measure the impairment
of normal mental functioning during the drugged state. The discrepancy
between these studies and the personal testimony of the artists
themselves underscored the shortcomings of the scientific modus
operandi, which relied primarily on performance and aptitude
tests and the like. In the end such tests yielded a morass of
nebulous and contradictory data that shed little light on the
psychological action of psychedelic agents. Dr. Osmond spoke for
a growing number of researchers when he wrote, "Our preoccupation
with behavior, because it is measurable, has led us to assume
that what can be measured must be valuable and vice versa....
An emphasis on the measurable and the reductive has resulted in
the limitation of interest by psychiatrists to aspects of experience
that fit in with this concept." According to Osmond, the
most important features of the LSD experiencethe overwhelming
beauty, the awe and wonder, the existential challenge, the creative
and therapeutic insightswould inevitably elude the scientist
who viewed them merely as "epiphenomena of 'objective' happenings."
The so-called objectivist approach was inherently flawed not only
because it sought to quantify creative experience but also because
it ignored the input of the observer, which always influenced
the results of an LSD experiment. An acid high was a state of
heightened suggestibility and acute sensitivity to environmental
cues. The subject's response was therefore largely influenced
by the expectations of the person administering the drug. If the
scientist viewed the LSD experience as essentially "psychotic,"
he unwittingly contributed to this type of response, both through
implicit suggestion and because he was not equipped to assist
the subject in interpreting the altered state of consciousness.
Under these circumstances a paranoid response with serious long-range
repercussions was not uncommon. Such results, in turn, led to
overgeneralization, to the point where the drug was defined as
a stress-inducing agent.
The notion that LSD could be used to treat psychological
problems seemed downright absurd to certain scientists in light
of the drugs long-standing identification with the simulation
of mental illness. Those who operated within the psychotomimetic
framework did not recognize that extrapharmacological variablesinadequate
preparation, negative expectations, poorly managed sessionswere
responsible for the adverse effects mistakenly attributed to the
specific action of the drug. (According to the model psychosis
scenario, there was really nothing to manage; just dose them and
take the reaction.) They were appalled to learn that some psychotherapists
were actually taking LSD with their patients. This was strictly
taboo to the behaviorist, who refused to experiment on himself
on the grounds that it would impair his ability to remain completely
The chasm between the two schools of thought was not due to a
communications breakdown or a lack of familiarity with the drug.
The different methodologies were rooted in conflicting ideological
frameworks. Behaviorism was still anchored in the materialist
world view formalized by Newton; the "psychedelic" evidence
was congruent with the revolutionary implications of relativity
theory and quantum mechanics. The belief in scientific objectivity
had been shaken in I927 when physicist Werner Heisenberg enunciated
the "uncertainty principle," which held that in subatomic
physics the observer inevitably influenced the movement of the
particles being observed. LSD research and many other types of
studies suggested that an uncertainty principle of sorts was operative
in psychology as well, in that the results were conditioned by
the investigator's preconceptions. The "pure" observer
was an illusion, and those who thought they could conduct an experiment
without "contaminating" the results were deceiving themselves.
Aldous Huxley felt that the "scientific" approach was
utterly hopeless. "Those idiots want to be Pavlovians,"
he said, "[but] Pavlov never saw an animal in its natural
state, only under duress. The 'scientific' LSD boys do the same
with their subjects. No wonder they report psychotics." The
practitioners of psychedelic therapy, on the other hand, were
cognizant of the complex interaction between set and setting,
and they worked to facilitate insight and personal growth.
Of course, even the best set and setting could not always guarantee
an easy, pleasant, or uncomplicated experience. The goal of a
therapeutic session was not to have a "good trip" per
se but to work through emotional, creative or intellectual blockages
and further the process of self-discoveryan ordeal that could
be very painful at times. Certain schools of psychiatryR. D.
Laing, for example recognized that "freaking out"
might actually herald a positive breakthrough to a new level of
awareness if properly integrated by the patient.
idea that a turbulent acid trip could have therapeutic consequences
reflected an ancient understanding of the human psyche and the
principles governing the healing process.
The "perilous passing" through the chaotic realm of
the bummer was structured into the drug rituals of primitive societies
as part of the sacred "vision-quest." The key figure
in the hallucinogenic drama was the shaman, the witch doctor,
the medicine man for woman, as was often the case) who gave song
to dreams and provided spiritual access for the entire tribe.
A connoisseur of the drug-induced trance state, the shaman derived
his or her strength from confronting the terror of ego deaththe
quintessential trial by fire that was seen as a necessary prelude
to an ecstatic rebirth, the resurrection of a new personality.
The drug experience informed every aspect of life in traditional
cultures. With the aid of hallucinogenic plants the witch doctor
cured the sick, communicated with the spirits of the dead, foretold
the future, and initiated young people in coming-of-age rites.
The use of mind-altering substances within an ethos of combat
and aggression was also common in primitive communities. Whatever
the specific purpose, the shaman always employed the hallucinogen
in a ceremonial context. An elaborate set of rituals governed
every step of the process, from gathering the roots and herbs
to preparing and administering the brew. The power plants were
often poisonous and could be fatal if not prepared properly. Only
a ritually clean person who had endured weeks or months of prayer
and fasting, often in isolation from the community, was deemed
ready to ingest these substances. Because of the shaman's familiarity
with states of consciousness induced by hallucinogenic drugs,
he or she was considered qualified to pilot others through the
"Primitive man," wrote Huxley in 1931, "explored
the pharmacological avenues of escape from the world with astounding
thoroughness. Our ancestors left almost no natural stimulant,
or hallucinant, or stupefacient, undiscovered." To Huxley,
the urge for transcendence and visionary experience was nothing
less than a biological imperative. "Always and everywhere,"
he asserted, "human beings have felt the radical inadequacy
of being their insulated selves and not something else, something
wider, something in the Wordsworthian phrase, 'far more deeply
interfused.' . . . I live, yet not I, but wine or opium or peyotyl
or hashish liveth in me. To go beyond the insulated self is such
a liberation that, even when self-transcendence is through nausea
into frenzy, through cramps into hallucinations and coma, the
drug-induced experience has been regarded by primitives and even
by the highly civilized as intrinsically divine. "
The use of mind-altering drugs as religious sacraments was not
restricted to a particular time and place but characterized nearly
every society on the planet (with the possible exception of certain
Eskimo and Polynesian communities). For the Aztecs there was peyote
and ololiuqui, a small lentil-like seed containing lysergic acid;
the Aborigines of Australia chewed pituri, a desert shrub; the
natives of the Upper Amazon had yagé, the telepathic vine.
Those who floated into a sacred space after ingesting these substances
often projected ecstatic qualities onto the plants themselves.
Certain scholars believe that the fabled Soma of the ancient Vedic
religion in northern India was actually the fly agaric mushroom,
and there is strong evidence that ergot, from which LSD is derived,
was the mysterious kykeon used for over two thousand years
by the ancient Greeks in the annual Eleusinian Mysteries.
When Christianity was adopted as the official creed of the Roman
Empire in the fourth century, all other religions, including the
Mysteries, were banished. Christian propagandists called for the
destruction of the pagan drug cults that had spread throughout
Europe after the Roman conquest. Like its shamanistic forebears,
paganism was rooted in rapture rather than faith or doctrine;
its mode of expression was myth and ritual, and those who carried
on the forbidden traditions possessed a vast storehouse of knowledge
about herbs and special medicaments. The witches of the Middle
Ages concocted brews with various hallucinogenic compoundsbelladonna,
thorn apple, henbane and bufotenine (derived from the sweat gland
of the toad Bufo marinus)and when the moon was full
they flew off on their imaginary broomsticks to commune with spirits.
The ruthless suppression of European witchcraft by the Holy Inquisition
coincided with attempts to stamp out indigenous drug use among
the colonized natives of the New World. The Spanish outlawed peyote
and coca leaves in the Americas, and the British later tried to
banish kava use in Tahiti. Such edicts were part of an imperialist
effort to impose a new social order that stigmatized the psychedelic
experience as a form of madness or possession by evil spirits.
It wasn't until the late eighteenth century that industrial civilization
produced its own "devil's advocate," which spoke in
a passionate and lyrical voice. The romantic rebellion signified
"a return of the repressed" as drugs were embraced by
the visionary poets and artists who lived as outcasts in their
own society. Laudanum, a tincture of opium, catalyzed the literary
talents of Coleridge, Poe, Swinburne, De Quincey, and Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, while the best-known French writers, including
Baudelaire, de Nerval, and Victor Hugo, gathered at Le Club des
Haschischins, a protobohemian enclave in Paris founded by Theophile
Gautier in 1844. 
For the visionary poets modem society was the bummer, and they
often viewed the drug experience as a tortured means to a fuller
existence, to a life more innately human. It was with the hope
of alleviating his own tortured mental condition that Antonin
Artaud made an intercontinental trek in the I930S to participate
in the peyote ritual of the Tarahumara Indians in the Mexican
highlands. Artaud did not undertake such a risky journey as a
tourist or an anthropologist but as someone who wished to be healed,
as a spiritual exile seeking to regain "a Truth which the
world of Europe is losing. " The desperate Frenchman experienced
a monumental bummer"the cataclysm which was my body. .
. this dislocated assemblage, this piece of damaged geology."
Yet somehow, despite the nightmare visions and the somatic discomfort,
he managed to scratch out a perception of the Infinite. "Once
one has experienced a visionary state of mind," Artaud wrote
in The Peyote Dance, "one can no longer confuse the
lie with truth. One has seen where one comes from and who one
is, and one no longer doubts what one is. There is no emotion
or external influence that can divert one from this reality."
Like Artaud and the romantic poets, some psychiatrists who used
LSD in a therapeutic context believed that a disruptive experience
could have a curative effect if allowed to proceed to resolution.
Many other researchers, however, dismissed transcendental insight
as either "happy psychosis" or a lot of nonsense. The
knee-jerk reaction on the part of the psychotomimetic stalwarts
was indicative of a deeply ingrained prejudice against certain
varieties of experience. In advanced industrial societies "paranormal"
states of consciousness are readily disparaged as "abnormal"
or pathological. Such attitudes, cultural as much as professional,
played a crucial role in circumscribing the horizon of scientific
investigation into hallucinogenic agents.
Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,
argues that the scientist's overriding need to make sense of his
data compels him to mold it to the prevailing scientific paradigm,
which defines "legitimate" problems and methods for
a given historical era. There are moments, however, when the orthodox
framework cannot bear the weight of irrefutable new evidence.
A period of controversy ensues until a new paradigm emerges to
encompass and transcend the previous ideology. During this transition
period scientists who buck the status quo are often castigated
as eccentric, irresponsible, and unscientific. Galileo, for example,
was branded a lunatic and a heretic for suggesting that the earth
revolved around the sun. In a similar fashion the psychedelic
evidence challenged the entrenched world view of the psychiatric
establishment, and proponents of LSD therapy were summarily denounced
and ridiculed by those who were fixated on the model psychosis
Dr. Humphry Osmond defended his position by emphasizing that the
pathological bias, from a historical perspective, was clearly
the exception and not the rule. In many cultures that were less
sophisticated technologically but more so ecologically, the drug-induced
trance state was revered as an enlargement of reality rather than
a deviation from it. Osmond pleaded with his fellow researchers
not to dismiss something that struck them as unusual or different
simply because "it transcends those fashionable ruts of thinking
that we dignify by calling logic and reason." He urged psychiatrists
to change their outlook in order to realize the full potential
While many young doctors rallied to his call, there were others,
including certain influential scientists working under CIA and
military contract, who refused to budge from the psychotomimetic
posture. The debate between the two camps came to a head at the
first international conference on LSD therapy in I959. Sponsored
by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation (at times a CIA conduit), it
was perhaps the most important gathering of LSD researchers to
date for it enabled workers in the field to compare notes and
analyze their findings as a group. The conference was chaired
by Dr. Paul Hoch, a prominent and well-connected scientist who
was, in the words of Sanford Unger, "an opinion leader."
Hoch was also a longtime CIA consultant and a contract employee
of the US Army Chemical Corps. Dr. Harold Abramson, a veteran
of the CIA's MK-ULTRA program, served as recording secretary,
and a number of other scientists who rented their services to
the CIA and the military were featured speakers. Hoch and Abramson
did not just stumble into their respective roles at this event.
Their status as dominant figures in above-ground LSD research
suggests the extent to which covert interests influenced the course
of the debate over hallucinogenic substances and their effects.
Despite ample evidence to the contrary Dr. Hoch stubbornly insisted
that LSD and mescaline were "essentially anxiety-producing
drugs. " He asserted that they were "not especially
useful" in a therapeutic context because they disorganize
the psychic integration of a person. LSD experiments, according
to the chairman, could not be compared with "results obtained
in patients where tranquilizing drugs were used to reduce, instead
of stir up the patient's symptoms. "
Dr. Hoch was incredulous when other participants in the Macy conference
reported that their patients found the LSD session beneficial
and personally rewarding and were usually eager to take the drug
again. "In my experience," Hoch announced, "no
patient asks for it again." His experience included the following
mescaline experiment conducted on a thirty-six-year-old male diagnosed
as a "pseudoneurotic schizophrenic."
He had some visual hallucinations. He saw dragons and tigers coming
to eat him and reacted to these hallucinations with marked anxiety.
He also had some illusionary distortions of the objects in the
room. The emotional changes were apprehension and fearat times
mounting to panic, persecutory misinterpretation of the environment,
fear of death, intense irritability, suspiciousness, perplexity,
and feelings of depersonalization. He verbalized the feelings
of depersonalization as "floating out of spaced seemed "between
this life and the next," and had the feeling of being born.
The paranoid content concerned essentially why the doctors were
taking notes and fear that he would be attacked by them. He also
expressed an ecstatic grandiose trend of having the feeling that
he was God in heaven and then, however, had the feeling of being
in hell....The mental picture was that of a typical schizophrenic
psychosis while the drug influence lasted.
As an afterword, Hoch noted, "This patient received transorbital
lobotomy and showed temporarily a marked improvement in all his
symptoms, losing most of his tension and anxiety. Postoperatively
he was again placed under mescaline. Basically the same manifestations
were elicited as prior to the operation with the exception that
quantitatively the symptoms were not as marked as before."
Dr. Hoch also tried electroshock treatment on patients who had
been given mescaline. "It did not influence the clinical
symptoms at all," he reported matter-of-factly. "The
patients continued to behave in the same way as prior to electroshock
treatment." On the basis of these tests Hoch concluded that
electroshock "has no influence on mescaline-produced mental
states." He might have revised his "objective"
assessment if he had taken the drug himself and had one of his
assistants apply the volts while he tripped the lights fantastic.
But those who secretly funded his research required only that
he dish it out to mental patients and prisoners.
"An interesting theory can always outrun a set of facts,"
declared psychologist Audrey Holliday. She found the whole psychotomimetic
approach guilty of using "unscientific and intemperate terms."
Yet the semantic inaccuracies were still being bandied about even
when most researchers had agreed that LSD did not really mimic
Despite widespread acknowledgment that the model psychosis concept
had outlived its usefulness, the psychiatric orientation articulated
by those of Dr. Hoch's persuasion prevailed in the end. When it
came time to lay down their hand, the medical establishment and
the media both "mimicked" the line that for years had
been secretly promoted by the CIA and the militarythat hallucinogenic
drugs were extremely dangerous because they drove people insane,
and all this talk about creativity and personal growth was just
a lot of hocus pocus. This perception of LSD governed the major
policy decisions enacted by the FDA and the drug control apparatus
in the years ahead.
1. Osmond left Canada in 1963 and joined a
group of researchers at the Princeton Neuropsychiatric Institute.
There he worked closely with Dr. Bernard Aaronson, whose studies
in hypnosis and altered states of consciousness were funded by
the CIA through the Society for the Study of Human Ecology. Osmond
and Aaronson later coauthored a popular anthology called Psychedelics.
Unlike Aaronson, who was unaware of the CIA's interest in his
work, Dr. Carl Pfeiffer, another Princeton researcher, had close
ties with the CIA. As one of Pfeiffer's associates put it, "Princeton
was crawling with agents. They came courting everyone. It was
obvious. They would give us whatever we wanted.... We realized
we were being recruited, but at that time we were flattered that
such a prestigious government agency was interested in us."
A little too interested, perhaps; a number of scientists soon
discovered that their mail was being opened and read by government
2. In his letters Huxley mentioned "my
friend Dr. J. West, " a reference to Jolly West, who conducted
LSD studies for the CIA. At one point, while West was engaged
in MK-ULTRA research, Huxley suggested that he hypnotize his subjects
prior to administering LSD in order to give them "post-hypnotic
suggestions aimed at orienting the drug-induced experience in
some desired direction." Needless to say, the CIA was intrigued
by this idea. Huxley also lectured on parapsychology at Duke University,
where J. B. Rhine (with whom Huxley communicated was engaged in
ESP studies for the CIA and the army. (back)
3. After thirteen years of utilizing this
method, Osmond and his colleagues published their findings: "When
psychedelic therapy is given to alcoholics, about one-third will
remain sober after the therapy is completed and another one-third
will be benefited.... Our conclusion is that, properly used, LSD
therapy can turn a large number of alcoholics into sober members
of society. Even more important, this can be done very quickly
and therefore very economically." (back)
4. Formerly a member of the Research and Analysis
Branch of the OSS, Bateson was the husband and co-worker of anthropologist
Margaret Mead. An exceptional intellect, he was turned on to acid
by Dr. Harold Abramson, one of the CIA's chief LSD specialists.
5. In the mid-1940s Lord Buckley founded a
mescaline club called The Church of the Living Swing. A practitioner
of yoga who often appeared in public wearing a tuxedo with tennis
sneakers, a big white moustache, and a safari hat, Buckley rented
a yacht and threw mescaline parties in the San Francisco Bay with
live jazz by Ben Webster and Johnny Puleo and the Harmonicats.
6. Whereas most psychedelic therapists were
prepared to assist their patients should difficulties arise, Dr.
Salvador Roquet, a maverick Mexican psychiatrist, consciously
sought to induce a bummer as part of his "treatment."
Roquet utilized various hallucinogenic drugs, including LSD, psilocybin,
mescaline, datura, and ketamine. Known as "a master of bad
trips" and "a pusher of death," Roquet subjected
people to adverse stimuli while they were drugged; Jewish subjects,
for example, were given acid and then forced to listen to a recording
of Hitler's speeches. (back)
7. In The Road to Eleusis authors Albert
Hofmann, Gordon Wasson, and Carl Ruck present convincing evidence
that the Eleusinian Mysteries, the oldest religion in the West,
centered around a mass tripping ritual. For two millennia pilgrims
journeyed from all over the world to take part in the Mysteries
and drink of the sacred kykeon a holy brew laced with
ergot. The setting for the Mysteries was carefully devised to
maximize the transcendental aura. After drinking the spiritual
potion, the initiates would listen to ceremonial music and ponder
the texts of Demeter, goddess of grain (symbolizing renewal, spring,
fecundity, and possibly the ergot fungus, which grows on barley,
from which the kykeon was made). At the climax of the initiation
a beam of sunlight would flood the chamber. This vision was said
to be the culminating experience of a lifetime, man's redemption
from death. As the poet Pindar wrote, "Happy is he who, having
seen these rites, goes below the hollow earth; for he knows the
end of life and its god-sent beginning. " Plato, Aristotle
and Sophocles were among those who participated in this secret
8. While the passing of time and the destruction
of documentary evidence by the church has concealed the full scope
of the ritual use of hallucinogens in Europe, scattered references
suggest that a widespread psychedelic underground existed during
the Middle Ages. Walter Map, a twelfth-century ecclesiastic, told
of certain heretical sects that offered innocent people a "heavenly
food" proclaiming, "Often you will see . . . angelic
visions, in which sustained by their consolation, you can visit
whatsoever place you wish without delay or difficulties."
9. Gautier was turned on to hashish by J.
J. Moreau de Tours, a French doctor who attempted to correlate
the effects of cannabis with the manifestations of mental illness.
Moreau, the first person to put forward the notion of a drug-induced
"model psychosis, " supplied hashish to the literary
giants who frequented Gautier's club. (back)