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 LSD
This 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 medicineperformers,
painters, and writersbut not among people in general. After
the scientific publications around the turn of the century on
mescalinewhich, as already mentioned, evokes psychic effects
quite like those of LSDthe 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,
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
The existence of LSD was even regarded by the drug enthusiasts
as a predestined coincidenceit 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
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 oneselfsoon
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 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
Sandoz Stops LSD Distribution
In 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
Decision Regarding LSD 25 and Other Hallucinogenic Substances
More 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
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
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
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
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 LSDits 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 Experiments
While 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.
Like 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 waybelieving
themselves to be invulnerablewalked 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
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
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
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 Market
Nonmedicinal 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 marketLSD that has been applied in solution onto sugar
cubes or blotting paperdecompose 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. Leary
Dr. 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 tripLSD as a ticket to an adventurous journey into
new worlds of mental and physical experiencebecame the latest
exciting fashion among academic youth, spreading rapidly from
Harvard to other universities. Leary's doctrinethat LSD not
only served to find the divine and to discover the self, but indeed
was the most potent aphrodisiac yet discoveredsurely 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
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
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
sentencesten 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 smugglingshow 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
Meeting with Timothy Leary
Dr. 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
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 drugsLSD, psilocybin,
mescaline, hashishof 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
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 spacethat is, with problems whose study
would bring him no further difficulties on the part of governmental
Travels in the Universe of the Soul
Thus 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
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 obliteratedonly 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 musculatureI 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 intervala 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? Perhapsat 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.
10:00: The environment of the room transforms itself into phosphorescent
waves, running hither from the feet even through my body. The
skinand above all the toesis 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 armsyes, 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 meas
if cut throughand 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 dropsand 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 endnot yetbut its rearguard, which passed by me
during the ensuing two hours, very much resembled the rainbow
that follows the storm.
Both the estrangement from the environment and the estrangement
from the individual body, experienced in both of the preceding
experiments described by Gelpkeas well as the feeling of an
alien being, a demon, seizing possession of oneselfare 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
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 explanationthat LSD, as a biochemical agent,
only triggered his visions but had not created them and that these
visions rather originated from his own soulgave 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
melet 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.
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 scandalintolerable
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
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 describefrom terrifying visions to
extreme euphoria, a kind of death-rebirth cycleis characteristic
of many LSD experiments.
A Joyous Song of Being
My 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 ampuls (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 conspiratorthe common
experience requires no words.
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.
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.
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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