The Discovery of Love: A Psychedelic Experience with LSD-25
Reviewed by Lawrence Hagerty
Malden Grange Bishopís book, The Discovery of Love: A Psychedelic Experience with LSD-25, is one of the most detailed and fascinating accounts of a personís initial encounter with LSD that I have ever read. Not only does this book provide a participantís look at what I have heard referred to as "the Menlo Park experiments," it also reveals the incredible power of a well planned and well executed psychedelic journey. Beginning in 1961, and stretching over the next 3 Ĺ years, the International Foundation for Advanced Study in Menlo Park, California conducted research with LSD and mescaline, processing some 350 participants. As a historical record, Bishopís book provides an important first hand account of these experiments from a participantís point of view.
What makes this book remarkable is the historical context in which it was written. By this I mean both the world view of the author and the sociological/political backdrop of the times. As you will see, the author was representative of his age, sex, and position in society. There was little in his background to set him apart from the men and women I remember who were friends of my parents. Their world view was largely shaped by the Great Depression and the "War Years," and unexamined patriotism was still held in high regard by a significant number of people.
These were not necessarily the best of times. For example, at one point Bishop mentions his concerns about the possibility of nuclear war. At the time, this thought was on almost everyoneís mind. It was in 1961 and 1962, you will recall, that we lived through such tension filled events as the Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis. Even school children were indoctrinated into this culture of fear with frequent "duck and cover" drills in which they were taught to huddle in terror under their desks to await Armageddon. This was the set and setting in which Bishopís book was written.
With the advent of websites that allow people to post reports of personal psychedelic experiences, we are unlikely to see any more books such as this. In one sense, I could say that The Discovery of Love is simply a well written, 175 page trip report. However, I believe this little volume is more important than that. Published in the early part of 1963, Bishopís book predates such culture-changing events in the United States as the first large-scale race riots, the Viet Nam war protests, the Summer of Love, and the criminalization of the use of LSD. When this book was published, John Kennedy was still alive. It was a very different world back then.
To say the least, in those days we were all "buttoned down" a little tighter. It was still a rare sight back then to see men hug each other in public greeting, and the word "love" was the domain of women, seldom used by the stuffy, boring businessmen who seemed to be running things. This is not to say that there was less love in the world then. I merely wish to emphasize the fact that the concept of love was not widely discussed in public by middle-aged businessmen.
Had I known Malden Bishop at the time he wrote this book, I suspect he would have been the last person on Earth I could imagine writing an entire book about love. In the forward to this book, Humphry Osmond calls Bishop "a plain man." With no disrespect intended, Bishopís own words reinforce this impression. While reading the almost 50 pages of autobiographical information Bishop submitted to the Foundation in his application to participate in the experiments, I became quite impatient for him to get to the description of the day he finally ingested LSD-25 for the first time. In retrospect, I now see how this background information is central to an understanding of the profound impact the experience made on Bishopís psyche. I donít mean to imply that his story is boring. Quite the contrary. Bishop, like most of us, has a very interesting life story to tell. In the final analysis, however, it is also a common story, a story of everyman and everywoman. This is precisely what gives his book its power. To follow a conservative, 54 year old businessmanís transformation into a person who values love above all else in life is a profound testimony to the power of this sacred medicine we call LSD.
To anyone who has experienced the healing power of LSD, Bishopís account holds few surprises. What was revealing to me, however, was the degree of clarity he achieved in a single session. Above all else, this book is an important reminder of the healing potential available in a single, well-planned, and expertly guided LSD session.
Compared to the manner in which many people experienced LSD for their first time during the later half of the 1960s, the protocol for using LSD at Menlo Park was very demanding. Preparation began a minimum of four weeks prior to the initial experience. (Participants who had a second session were required to wait at least six months between experiences.) Before a participant was given LSD, they first had to answer a detailed questionnaire and then participate in a series of personal interviews with the Institute staff. Additionally, participants were introduced to altered states of consciousness through the use of carbogen.
Bishopís description of his carbogen training is one of the hidden gems of this book. Carbogen is a mixture consisting of 70% oxygen and 30% carbon dioxide. It is administered in a clinical setting by placing a mask over the face. According to Bishop, ". . . as you breathe the gas you lose contact for a few seconds. During this time you get a glimpse of your unconsciousness (sic) in a sort of dreamlike state. . . . The purpose of these sessions is to teach you to look at your heretofore hidden self, the real you."
Essentially, carbogen was used to familiarize test subjects with what is called the psychedelic state. It also prepares participants for the shock of uncovering unconscious material, which almost always is a total surprise (hence the term "unconscious"). A further purpose of this training was to build a trusting relationship between the test subjects and the staff members who would be with them during their LSD experience. In most cases, six to eight inhalations of carbogen were required before the first use of LSD. These were spread over three to four weekly preparatory interviews.
Compared to some of the horror stories I have read about the CIAís experiments with LSD, the amount of time and energy that went into preparing the Menlo Park participants for their first psychedelic experience is very impressive. Although some may consider this amount of preliminary preparation unnecessary, I believe that it directly contributed to the depth of his experience. At least this seems true in Bishopís case. I found it interesting that he began to experience positive changes in his daily life during the weeks leading up to the day of his inner journey.
The technical details of Bishopís experience provide a fascinating look at how clinical experiments with LSD were conducted at Menlo Park. In the company of professionally trained staff, with whom he already had a degree of trust, Malden Bishop ingested 200 micrograms of LSD-25 and spent the next 10-12 hours on the most fascinating journey of his life. Although these experiments were conducted in a clinical setting, much care was taken to have comfortable, tasteful furnishings and beautiful works of art available. Good music was also an integral component of the experience. Overall, Bishopís descriptions of the setting in which the experiment was conducted is a far cry from scenes shown on recent television documentaries about other clinical evaluations of LSD. I can recall a recent piece on MTV that contained scenes of test subjects under obvious distress in stark clinical surroundings. Conducted properly, clinical experiments with psychedelic substances can produce moments such as the one Bishop describes taking place within the first few hours of his experience:
[After describing a pastoral vision he was having]
I was a young man and wandered in and out of many of the old houses. Old houses have always interested me. I have often likened them to old women. As with old women, they were once filled with youthful vigor, with loving, with life, with being. But after a while they have served their purpose and they seem to slowly disintegrate, slowly erode back into the earth from which they came. They are a sort of symbol to me of the temporariness of form, and the eternalness of substance. . . . I went through all the experiences of my youth, and more too. . . . The important thing about this phase of the experience, I think, is that I was learning that all things are one, and all things are a part, an essential part, of my being. The blossom and the piece of excrement are one, and equally important. The storm and the sunshine, the rock and the sand, everything and all things are one with me, and I am one with them. I had heard these ideas stated before but now I knew it.
His statement, "now I knew it" is the core of the psychedelic experience. Direct contact with the divine, without the filters of everyday human life, is the central teaching of Bishopís book. I believe it is important to keep in mind that prior to this moment in time, Bishop had spent a lifetime trying to adjust his deep inner life to the tides of the time. He was a serious man, a practical man of business. In those days it wasnít so easy to reconcile oneís inner sense of love and beauty with the world in which oneís daily affairs were conducted. Bishopís encounter with LSD did not bring anything new into his being so much as it allowed him to come into intimate contact with his own divine oneness.
In looking over the notes I made while reading Bishopís book. I find that the majority of them are of his descriptions of the many facets of love. While thoughts like this are more commonly available today, I cannot help but to keep the historical context of this book in mind. In essence, Bishop paints a picture of the potential for transformation that exists in even the most difficult of times. The turmoil of the 1960s was just about to begin, and yet this pillar of the establishment was so moved by a single day under the loving influence of LSD that he was compelled to write a book about love. If nothing else, Bishopís book stands as testimony to the incalculable value further research with this substance can provide to our species in this time of grave global peril.
This is not to say that LSD is a "magic pill," capable of transforming a culture on its own. While Bishop achieved a significant breakthrough in his experience, his writing also reveals the depth of his old thought patterns. For example, his view of the role of women in society is representative of the times and decidedly chauvinistic. At one point he says:
In the face of the Guardian Angel I saw and felt the great role of woman, and why only she could have been created as the companion of man. She is always a center of serenity to which he can return from the storms of the sea of life for moments of rest and reassurance. Tears flowed from my eyes when I saw how many women miss this magnificent role, how they lose their way, lose their womanness, when they try to play the role of the man, when they try to be "equal," try to be and act like men. How horrible! A woman can never be a man, and there is no reason for her to even try. She has a great, a holy, a sacred role in being woman. This is where her happiness is, and where she gives happiness to him.
One doesnít have to be a strident feminist for that paragraph to cause some irritation. I should point out that this is the only chauvinistic statement I noticed in the entire book. While it may not seem fair to point out a minor digression in such a beautiful book, I do so to accentuate the fact that one dose of LSD will not magically change years of stagnant thinking. Just as energy must go into preparing for a psychedelic experience, even more work is required afterwards if one is going to integrate that experience into ones life afterwards. The fact that Malden Bishop took the time to write a book about love seems to me a good indicator that he had begun such a process.
To persons with a great deal of psychedelic experience, Bishopís book will hold few surprises regarding the revelations he experienced. This may also be true for persons with little or no psychedelic experience but who have read reports of other deep inward journeys. In fact, I would have found it unusual if Bishop had not made such statements as:
I learned then that I am not my brotherís keeper, but that I am my brotherís brother.
Love is an experience of giving, not receiving.
We suffer so much we forget to love!
The object of worship is not to perform rites, but to draw closer to a oneness with God.
One of the important things which you learn under LSD is that all things are one.
What sets this book apart, as I said earlier, is the mind set of its author and the historical setting in which it was written. Taken in this context, Bishopís book provides an important blueprint for researchers who are interested in ways that set and setting can enhance the value of the psychedelic experience. The serious intent with which these substances were used in the Menlo Park experiments is an important lesson.
People who might find this book useful are young people who think there is no chance that their parents will ever understand that the War on Drugs is a national disgrace. Bishopís account of a single LSD experience proves that even those who are deeply entrenched in the current system have the potential to change their restrictive world view. If a man like Malden Bishop can come away from a single psychedelic journey sounding like a flower child, there still is hope for our species.
Perhaps the most important potential audience for this book is the large group of people who are curious about psychedelics but who are too timid to expand their own consciousness ― even with non-threatening techniques such as deep meditation, breath work, trance dance, or some of the new virtual reality "mind machines." Anyone who is interested in altered states of consciousness, but has not had the courage to experience them first hand, will find The Discovery of Love worth reading.
Malden Bishop was 54 years old when he ingested LSD-25 for the first (and possibly only) time in his life. If his book is any evidence, it is safe to say he learned more about his own inner being on that day than he had in all of his previous days combined. It took great courage for him to volunteer for this experiment, and I think it only fair to praise him for doing so in his own words:
It does not take courage to stand up for something the majority wants. It is not courageous to stand for democracy in the United States; for Christ in a Christian church; for a king in a kingdom; for segregation in the South. The real heroes of any age are those who have the courage to stand up for the truth, regardless of whom or what they stand against and regardless of any consequences which might come from their stand.
Those words were written in 1963. Imagine what the world would be like today if every adult in the world, from that time until now, had been given the privilege of experiencing a day like the one that changed Malden Bishopís life in such a loving, positive way. It would be a different world, indeed. The only reason we donít have a world like that today is because a minority of small-minded men and women have imposed their own moral code upon the majority. As Bishop said:
I do not want to violate moral codes, social conventions, or legal regulations just to be violating them. I am in favor of these as long as they serve a good purpose. But it is common sense that when our codes, conventions, and laws become our masters they are no good. They must be our servants, our tools. They must help us toward God, not restrict us. They must help us to grow, to mature, not stifle and deaden us. Love can only survive in freedom.
How true that is. Love can only survive in freedom. Without the freedom Malden Bishop discovered on his wonderful inner adventure, he may have passed through this life without ever being able to express the deep love that he realized is the core of his being. How fortunate we are to have such a well written record of Malden Bishopís epiphany.
Lawrence Hagerty is a writer living in SouthernCalifornia. His new book, The Spirit of the Internet: Speculations on the Evolution of Global Consciousness is available online at www.MatrixMasters.com and at Amazon.com.
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