LSD The Problem-Solving Psychedelic
P.G. Stafford and B.H. Golightly
Preface by Dr. Humphrey Osmond
THIS IS A GOOD and interesting account of some positive uses of psychedelics written mainly for the non-technical reader. In some details it can be faulted, but it is a stimulating work, full of information, much of it gleaned patiently from the journals and some obtained directly by the writers in the course of their enquiries. However, this does not, I think, constitute its main importance, and its significance would be completely misunderstood if it is seen only in this light. It will certainly be read widely by the psychedelic generation and their successors; but in my opinion, it should receive the closest attention from those who consider themselves older, wiser, and more in touch with sober reality than these adventurous people. I hope that my contemporaries and colleagues will read this book and give it their careful consideration, because if we do not grasp clearly what its authors are saying, we can easily make some serious errors of judgment.
Unless I have completely misunderstood the message, this book must be looked upon as a manifesto from one generation to anotherfrom the young to their elders. As I see it, the younger generation is telling us that it proposes to use psychedelics because it considers them appropriate instruments for living in the hurricane's eye of accelerating change. These young people consider that it is neither possible nor desirable to prevent them from employing these substances in this way, and in fact they are challenging lawmakers, law givers and law enforcers to stop them.
If I am correct in this assumption, there is already a serious source of disagreement between people of different ages. It may well be that the authors have over estimated the extent to which interest in these remarkable substances exists today, and to which it will be maintained in the future. Some of my colleagues hope and indeed believe that this is just a fad which will soon die out. This is possible, but I would not bet on it.
Supposing they are correct, what then? If psychedelics are indeed agents both for adapting to and producing social change, then clearly we may expect to see their effects in the fairly near future, if we are not seeing them already. Those who dominate the administrative structure, many of whom seem to be very ignorant about psychedelics and inclined to even doubt their existence, have only two courses of action open to them-they can either suppress psychedelics and punish those who make, distribute and use them, or they can seek ways of incorporating these innovations in the main stream of our society. Since there is reason to suppose that the psychedelic experience can be produced without drugs and while some of these non-drug methods are safe, others are more dangerous to health than chemicals, it is by no means certain that suppressing the chemicals, even if possible, would solve the psycho-social problem.
This book gives us many accounts of experiences which will undoubtedly liven and enrich, but also at times, endanger us. One is forced to ask oneself, supposing it were possible to suppress both the chemicals and the experience, would we still be wise to attempt this? The authors and many of their readers will not, I think, allow us to avoid this issue with learned platitudes.
The elderly of whatever chronological age have always resisted and feared innovation, and when they have been unable to prevent it, have usually urged that innovators should desist until the matter had been mulled over for a few centuries. Innovators, however, are impatient creatures and do not wish to hasten slowly. Even when innovation has been successfully repressed, such success has often had bitter consequences. The elimination of the Albigensians by fire and sword is not now seen as a particularly creditable episode in European Church history, even though it was considered to be a crusade at the time. Galileo's forced recantation is now seen as being an unnecessary blunder by Pope Urban VII and his advisors. It did not achieve its goal; however, even the Vatican did not attempt to prevent people from grinding telescope and other lenses, and astronomers continued to look at the stars. Today it is possible to make reasonably efficient and not very dangerous psychedelics more easily and more inconspicuously than it was to grind even moderately efficient lenses in the seventeenth century. All the evidence is that it is becoming steadily easier. Knowledge about the use and abuse of psychedelics is, as this book shows, widespread and easily available. Curiosity and love of adventure alone would encourage people to seek and find these substances even where there are not a number of very serious reasons for doing so. These facts must be recognized if those in authority plan to prevent the growing use of psychedelics.
Of course, if we decide that we cannot prevent them being made and used, then it would be folly to pretend that we can, and wholly different policies must be devised to ensure that safer substances and methods are developed, combined with suitable customs and traditions for preventing harm to society and its members. The worst possible solution would be to prohibit these substances with a ban that did not work.
As one might have predicted, things have moved more quickly than my old friend, Aldous Huxley, and my many professional colleagues expected a decade or so ago. Nevertheless, he and we have warned repeatedly that official unwillingness to face what was likely to happen must lead to muddle and unnecessary misfortune. At present, hastily passed laws have much restricted the professional use of these powerful and extraordinary tools to the chagrin of many long-established investigators. No such inhibitions deter the psychedelic generation who are continuing their explorations, learning, sometimes painfully from their mistakes, and seeming determined to continue to follow up the many remarkable possibilities which the authors of this book have vividly discussed.
As we grow older many of us become unwilling to believe that we live in a strange and dangerous world in which the very air which we breathe becomes lethal at times. We long for something safer, more predictable, and cosier. Dr. Roger Revelle, Director of the Harvard Center for Population Studies, said recently, "Once men start down the technological road, they cannot turn back, once having bitten into the fruit of the tree of knowledge, there can be no return to the Eden of innocence and ignorance." This certainly applies to psychedelics, and some of the shrill denunciations of these substances and those who employ them are likely to encourage defiance and rasher use, rather than to foster caution and good sense. It seems that there are many of us who wish to applaud the young for being adventurous, non-conformist and tackling the great problems of our era, but we expect them always and only to adopt means for solving these problems which are congenial to us and of which we approve. Yet the very existence of some of our greater social conundrums is evidence of a need for wholly new approaches. It is asking too much that we should expect people to be original and creative, yet conformist and unable to dispense with our prejudices and preconceptions.
I do not doubt that this book will be widely read, but I hope that its readers will not be confined to those who already believe in its authors' opinions. The "nay-sayers," the critics, the cynics, the uncommitted and the undecided have a duty to consider the propositions put forward here, for one way or another they are likely to affect our lives and those of our children and grandchildren after them. The consequences of an extra-legal psychedelic movement, a maquis, employing these psycho-pharmacological weapons, would be wholly different from the same substances used within the social and legal framework. We must take these matters seriously because this book shows, if it shows nothing else, that members of the psychedelic movement are in earnest and are unlikely to be permanently deterred by either threats or blandishments. It is not even certain that they will "think differently when they are older and more mature." Such evidence as we have does not support this reassuring platitude.
There are rarely simple answers to great social problems. This book gives one an opportunity to ponder possible answers to this one and to seek wise and feasible conclusions upon which decisions can be reached for taking actions which do as little harm as possible. Such modest goals are not dramatic and do not appeal greatly to those who are already for or against the psychedelic movement. Nevertheless, the history of great differences of opinion shows that very often when the dust of conflict is settled, the damage assessed and the dead and wounded counted, there are far fewer complete victories or utter defeats in the realm of new ideas than is commonly supposed.
As passions rise, those who stand "hat-a-hand" between the contenders seem to be lacking in zeal, integrity, and courage, for compromise, one of the most biological of human virtues, is like nature itself, curiously incomplete. With only a little imagination, some common sense, much patience and a great deal of sustained good will, these instruments can be put to many uses for the general benefit of mankind, provided only that those who are using them and intend to use them in the future, and those who wish to limit and restrict their use respect each other's sincerity and negotiate as equals. We do not know whether this will happen. Those who are already convinced of the rightness of their cause rarely stop to think. I hope that on this occasion at least some of them will remember that those who will not learn from history are often fated to repeat it.
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