LSD -- TWENTY YEARS AFTER
Myron J. Stolaroff
Unpublished manuscript prepared after a meeting held in the home of Oscar Janiger, M.D., psychiatrist and early LSD researcher. The meeting was held in February, 1979, and included many of the early U.S. LSD investigators. The manuscript was rejected by The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, and The East-West Journal.
For those interested in LSD research, it was an occasion of very special significance. Oscar Janiger, M.D., psychiatrist, and early LSD researcher, had managed to gather in his home in Beverly Hills almost all of the early workers with LSD in the United States.
What would be the result of bringing together the key people who had been stimulated by the exciting discovery of Albert Hofmann in Switzerland, who announced the remarkable action of this substance in 1943? For years the research world, and eventually lay persons, had been greatly intrigued by this powerful agent, active in doses lower than any other known substance. Only one-tenth of a milligram can provide a full blown experience. Here is an agent which radically affects mood, sensation, feeling, and thinking, and opens vast arenas of mental experience. This chemical not only stimulated tremendous scientific activity, but finally frightened the whole world to the point of outlawing the substance and terminating most useful research.
Present at the meeting were the great names who pioneered much of the early research work with LSD. Our host, Oscar Janiger, had introduced over 1500 persons to the LSD experience, including artists, famous writers, and many of the elite of the entertainment industry. Others present included Sidney Cohen, an early LSD researcher and spokesman for the more enlightened medical point of view; Humphry Osmond, who so aptly named this powerful class of psycho-active agents when he proposed the name Psychedelic before the New York Academy of Sciences in 1956. At center stage was Al Hubbard, complete in cop's uniform down to the badge, pistol, and ammunition belt. It was he who introduced so many fortunate ones to the grander dimensions of the LSD experience, whereby the enormous potential for the advancement of humankind could be fully appreciated. There was also John Lily, bold explorer of the sensory deprivation tank and communicator with dolphins; enthusiast Ivan Tors, who learned from Lily to communicate with dolphins and produced the Flipper series. And of course no meeting on this subject could be complete without the wild, maverick Pied Piper of Zihuatenejo-Harvard, Timothy Leary. History may well one day reveal that this man more than any other single human being did more to change the consciousness, values, work habits, dress, and music of the world. Whether constructively or destructively may also yet remain to be seen. Many others were present, each of whom in their own way had discovered the value of LSD and had contributed to advancing our knowledge and application of this controversial substance.
This meeting in February, 1979, occurred 28 years after the ingestion of LSD by Nicholas Bercel, M.D., the first American to take LSD. The intervening years saw much activity, in many different directions. Some set out to study the physiological characteristics produced by the ingestion of LSD; other to determine if at last we had a method to artificially induce psychosis; others to evaluate its effectiveness as a therapeutic agent; others to refute its usefulness for any worthwhile purpose; others to study LSD as an agent for inducing mystical experience and understanding the great mysteries of creation and existence; others as an aid to inducing creativity; others to prove that LSD damaged chromosomes; still others to prove that it did not. Probably the most remarkable thing of all about this extraordinary chemical is that each investigator, by and large, was able to substantiate his initial premise by finding what he was looking for. The profound implications of a substance that behaves in such a manner still appear to be completely unrecognized by our scientific bodies. Despite very promising avenues of investigation, virtually all interesting research projects were closed down when James Goddard became Chief Administrator of the FDA in 1965.
One of the hoped for outcomes of such a gathering as the February meeting was that the early work would be put in perspective, conclusions drawn as to what work was valuable and what directions might be profitably pursued, and whether there might be some way to overcome the stigma held in positions of authority which has brought productive research to a complete halt.
The meeting was too informal to stay sufficiently focused to reach conclusions on such issues. But the meeting served one very valuable function. It brought back into view much of the work that had been done, the difference in approaches that had been made, and in some cases, how time has dealt with a particular approach. It also highlighted an extremely interesting problem, one that could have great significance for the development of society as a whole. How is it that a substance that has shown the remarkable potential as has LSD, now lies dormant and ignored by responsible medical researchers? Does this tell us anything about man's state of development, and shed any light on how we may proceed to solve some of humanity's outstanding problems? The issues may well be related. Certainly a substance which has generated such enormous controversy, while at the same time offering such promise, deserves re-evaluation in the perspective of the passage of time. It is well known by researchers that those problems which are the most difficult and defy solution are precisely the ones which may lead to the greatest leaps of knowledge when finally resolved. To avoid the loss that might occur if this perplexing problem is not solved seems well worth the effort of further examination.
In a field that is so complex, with so many conflicting points of view, is it possible to find a position from which an adequate survey and reassessment can be made? Perhaps the problem can be simplified if we study the analogy of a surveyor attempting to arrive at an adequate description of an area that is heavily wooded, surrounded by forested mountain peaks. It is clear that if the surveyor confines his activities to the valley floor, he will have very little knowledge of the overall area, as his view will be limited by the trees in his immediate vicinity. A better perspective of the landscape will be obtained if one climbs the valley walls, particularly when the altitude surpasses the treetops of the valley. When one finally reaches the mountain peak, beyond the timber line, there is an unobscured view of the entire territory, and the relative position of any part of the territory with respect to any other part can be clearly seen.
To follow this analogy in applying our understanding to the action of LSD, there are ranges of experience which correspond to the position of the surveyor as he climbs up the mountain. Obviously the clearest explanation of the work of all others in the field will come from those whose vision corresponds to having scaled the peak of the mountain.
To derive an understanding of this requires knowledge of the vast range of human experience and the relative meaning of various orders of experience. This may have been best put into perspective for us by Richard Maurice Bucke, M.D., in his book Cosmic Consciousness. Although first published almost 80 years ago, it is still today one of the best accounts of the probable progress of human evolution.
Bucke postulates that man has evolved from a form of simple consciousness, which we recognize as the state that animals are in, where they are aware of their surroundings, to self-consciousness, which is the most predominant current state of humanity. In self-consciousness, we are not only aware of our surroundings, but we are aware that we are aware, and can make speculations and decisions regarding aspects of our perceptions. The next stage of development for man, Bucke postulates, is Cosmic Consciousness, whereby man will become aware of the cosmos, "of the life and order of the universe."
Like all new mutations, the new form appears only sporadically and infrequently. But as the new form is established, it appears with more frequency, until it finally becomes predominant in the race. Just such has begun to happen with the state of Cosmic Consciousness, Bucke suggests. Bucke was led to formulate the nature of Cosmic Consciousness after a very dramatic personal experience; reported in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada:
"He and two friends had spent the evening reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Browning, and especially Whitman. They parted at midnight, and he had a long drive in a hansom. His mind, deeply under the influence of the ideas, images and emotions called up by the reading and talk of the evening, was calm and peaceful. He was in a state of quiet, almost passive, enjoyment.
"All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around, as it were, by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire -- some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next (instant) he knew that the light was within himself.
"Directly after there came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by and intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which ever since lightened his life. Upon his heart fell one drop of the Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of Heaven."
Bucke derived a set of conditions which he felt comprised the state of Cosmic Consciousness, and searched history for the figures which showed evidence of having obtained this state, according to his criteria. Fourteen persons meet the requirements, and in his book he describes each individual case. In addition, he reviews some thirty-five additional subjects who were either less perfect cases, or insufficient evidence was found to confirm then to complete Cosmic Consciousness.
The conditions for evidence of Cosmic Consciousness include an experience of immersion in flame or brilliant light, being bathed in the emotion of joy or ecstasy accompanying "salvation," an intellectual illumination which brings a new understanding of the cosmos beyond any concepts of the "self conscious" mind, a sense of immortality, freedom from fear of death, a sense that sin no longer exists, and changes in the subject which include added charm and even a transfigured appearance.
The cases of Cosmic Consciousness whom Bucke found met his criteria include founders of the world's great religions -- Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed -- and others -- Dante, Francis Bacon, William Blake, Walt Whitman. The lesser or more doubtful cases include such names as Moses, Isiah, Socrates, Spinoza, Wordsworth, Emerson, and Thoreau.
The same criteria that Bucke developed for Cosmic Consciousness may be applied to the psychedelic experience. If the analogy holds, then those who have the most profound experiences will be able to understand all of the other experiences. And of course it would be impossible for those who have lesser experiences to understand the higher ones, any more than an animal in simple consciousness can understand the thinking of a man is self consciousness, or a man with ordinary self consciousness could understand the experience of a man with cosmic consciousness.
Examination of the reports of various investigators indicate that this is indeed the case. While this would be a fascinating and rewarding area for a complete study, there is certainly enough data available to confirm that this is true.
Let us examine this claim by following through on some of the evidence. First, is it possible in the LSD or psychedelic experience to experience all of Bucke's criteria for Cosmic Consciousness? The answer is definitely yes. While certainly not all who have the experience reach this level, all of the criteria used by Bucke have been reported by LSD subjects. The action of the chemical apparently gives us access to the deeper regions of our mind, wherein all of the characteristics discussed are available. Whether a particular individual achieves this realization depend of course upon what kind of person he or she is, the nature of his or her aspirations, and the kinds of preparation and setting accompanying the experience. Because of the freeing actions of the chemical, many persons are able to experience aspects of Cosmic Consciousness that no doubt would never do so otherwise. This has its advantages and disadvantages, as will be discussed further. Not only are all of these criteria experienced, but other great realizations are reported. Some of the more powerful and common are:
The power of the mind is such that we each create our own universe. Mind is Cause, and all that we are and observe follows what we think. Because we are unaware of the power of our mind, we do not realize how we control our perception to confirm the world we have chosen, and blank out contrary data.
Man's natural state is to be intimately related with all of creation. It is the blocking of our relationship with any part of life that creates pain and suffering. It is the realization of our inherent relationship with everything that frees us from any sense of wrongdoing, or "sin," and brings the sense of joy and exultation that is Bucke's first criterion.
The beauty and joy of the world are endless, and limited only by our lack of appreciation and unwillingness to share it with others.
Life is a miraculous abundance, that will unfold ever more profoundly as we sanction it with love, understanding, and openness to allow it to reveal itself.
Honesty and humility are the two great predecessors to joyful discovery.
If one has reached the level of LSD experience that brings all of these realizations, does it then put in perspective all of the other phenomena that have occurred with LSD research? Let's look and see.
First let us look at the straightforward physiological research, such as the effect on various parts of the bodies of animals, the chemical compounds that are formed, etc. This is not affected one way or the other by the awareness of the highest potential of LSD research. A warning should be kept in view, though, of the power of mind, so that the mental state of neither the experimenter or the subject affects the results being sought. The conflicting reports in chromosome damage is a case in point.
Next there have been a whole host of studies on human reactions, such as pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and thought processes. Once one understands the true nature of the experience, it is quite clear why there is so much conflicting data. An open subject in pleasant surroundings with supportive experimenters may have a blissful experience. A hospital patient, full of repressed fears, guilts, and unexpressed anger, in a clinical setting to determine if he will reproduce symptoms of psychosis, can hardly do anything else. When one's mind is opened to one's repressed feelings (and the mentally ill are suffering from powerfully repressed feelings) in a cold and scientific setting with no explanation of what is happening to one, it is no wonder that even deeper degrees of insanity are produced. Thus the earlier workers, who knew nothing of Cosmic Consciousness, labeled these substances Psychotomimetic (psychosis mimicking) which is still the heading given today in pharmacology textbooks for medical students.
Many researchers learned that LSD used in a supportive setting permitted the subject to obtain access to their unconscious mind. Thus the experience became a valuable adjuct to psychotherapy, and a number of investigators reported excellent results in this area, particularly in England and in Germany.
And finally, there are those investigators who discovered the full range of the psychedelic experience, and directed their studies to learn how to best induce the most profound experiences, and what significance this approach might have in therapy, healing, creativity, and understanding man's true nature. The man most responsible for promulagating the use of the drug in this manner was Alred M. Hubbard, from Canada. Hubbard was a strange character, a most unlikely person to serve as God's messenger. Yet he had a remarkable gift for employing LSD, and helping others attain ultimate heights of experience. His work profoundly influence research groups in Canada, where he obtained the support of Doctors Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer, two of Canada's outstanding researchers in the chemistry of mental health. By 1960, LSD was well known to the public in Saskatchewan as an effective cure for alcoholics. This is probably the only place on earth where LSD had a favorable public image.
The approach following Hubbard's method came to be know as the "overwhelming dose" technique, the object being to give the subject an amount that would completely vanquish his defenses, in a setting and with support that would maximize learning and the opportunity to experience one's essential self. Research based on this approach postulated that the experience of one's real self and the ultimate nature of reality would be sufficient to overcome emotional problems and lead to a better life, a premise that was substantiated by several groups of investigators following this method. It also opened the door to many other avenues of exploration, all of which have a significant bearing on man's understanding of himself, the nature of mind, and the nature of reality.
So this was the picture in the early 1960's: drug research was proceeding well. There were a large number of investigations in process, with all of the important areas at least uncovered. There was controversy and differences of reports, to be sure, but this is only to be expected in the uncovering of any new area of human knowledge, and certainly one as complex and multi-faceted as this one.
With a new chemical that offered so much potential in advancing man's understanding, how is it that within a few short years, all official work in this area came to a complete standstill?
The reasons of course are complex and fascinating, and the study of the dynamics themselves may well lead man to a much clearer comprehension of himself and the current progress of evolution. The specific cause is quite clear, and in fact self-appointed. For Timothy Leary, a bright psychologist at Harvard University, intentionally set about to bring the great revolution, and his accomplishment was one of the greatest single-handed achievements in world history.
Leary in his own early drug experiences no doubt experienced some aspects of the Cosmic Vision. But it seems clear that he did not have a full experience of Cosmic Consciousness as defined by Bucke. For Leary never seemed to free himself from his own abhorrence of authority, and his inherent rebelliousness colored the movement that he initiated. For while he, and many of his followers, mouthed words of love and brotherhood, their anti-establishment, anti-society feelings and actions are difficult to reconcile with the true vision of Oneness and compassion that accompanies the complete experience of Cosmic Consciousness.
But Leary clearly saw the false games, the life-restricting structures, the heavy social emphasis on anti-life values, and saw the psychedelics as a way to cut through them. For a very brief interval, he considered the conventional way of research and published papers as a means of bringing these new tools to public attention. But he became convinced that such methods were too slow and would probably be stifled by the powerful defense systems of our ordinary social structures (was he prophetic?). In particular, he felt that the medical profession, which rigorously controlled research with LSD, was the most rigid of all, and would be most jealous of permitting work to open up in areas outside of their own training.
Relying heavily on the conviction that an individual who takes a psychedelic will discover his true self and transcend the personal and social restrictions that bind us, he believed a massive step forward in man's evolution could be initiated by widespread use of psychedelics among our young people. Consequently he deliberately set out, with the help of Richard Alpert and other close members of his Harvard group, to set up the International Foundation for Internal Freedom. The object of this Foundation was to encourage the widest possible use of LSD and similar psychedelics, with particular emphasis on appealing to youth. The foundation was eminently successful. It is estimated by William McGlothlin, social psychologist at UCLA, that by 1971 just over 2-1/2 million students had ingested a psychedelic
The young were chosen for very specific reasons. First, they had not yet solidified their defense mechanisms and value systems, and were much more open to the potential of the drug experience. Second, new values spread like wildfire among teenagers, who are very hip on what is "in." But the master stroke of the psychedelic revolution was employing two profound psychological principles which completely insured the success of the movement. For Leary was an even better psychologist than Hitler, his most successful rival in achieving mass revolution. The foundation of Hitler's effective massing of the German people was to first, furnish deliverance from the universal feeling of self-doubt by convincing them they were members of a Master Race, and second, provide a scapegoat, the Jews, on which to project their hostilities. Thus Hitler provided relief from humanity's two most crippling feelings, self-doubt and repressed anger, thereby mobilizing a nation to his ends.
But Leary had more powerful tools at his disposal. Leary approached youth with a complete knowledge of our inner craving for affection, and how completely starved for it most of us are. Few people know on the experiential level that the need for love, both to give and receive, is the most essential requirement of our inner being, and the failure or refusal to acknowledge this has led to practically all human error and disorders. The second basic principle is based on our most precious life-given sense of inner freedom, and how violently we repulse any interference with it. Few of us like to be told what to do, and what teenager has not spent most of his or her life being ordered what to do countless times a day? The stored up resentment of youth was a powerful source of energy which Leary was able to mobilize to fire his movement.
So here was maximum appeal to the teenager--a new, intriguing experience that permitted him or her to feel the love and affection of the group members in a way probably never experienced. At the same time, it revealed the false games and distorted values of adult society, the emphasis on status and possessions, rather than meaningful activities and relationships; the blindness of self-interest, the degradation of honesty. This opened the door to strong feelings of superiority and avenues of retaliation.
The results so far are well known history. The movement spread rapidly across the nation. Society was thrown into an uproar. Probably no problem has received such widespread notice in the public press. In a field where one publisher abhors the story of his rival, just about every popular magazine ran a story on the LSD craze. The government and medical authorities were horrified. LSD research was brought practically to a halt by canceling the Investigational New Drug Permits which authorized research. Authorized projects dropped from 73 to 5, all of the latter devoid of any element of LSD's usefulness in discovering the human potential. Today there is still a powerful negative stigma attached to LSD research, so that young medical researchers who are concerned about their career avoid it.
What accounted for this violent reaction, that soon spread around the world? A reaction so violent that a Swiss police officer told me his nation was shamed because they had invented LSD.
There must be both an inner cause and an outer cause to such a pronounced outcry. The outer cause is no doubt the extreme dissatisfaction with the observed results. The inner cause is a function of our own inner dynamics, which probably have not been carefully confronted. Both of these causes will now be examined.
First, let us give our attention to the results of the Leary revolution. Were there any worthwhile results? Not everyone will be in agreement, but certainly qualifying for the most positive results must be the substantially increased interest in the value of human relationships and the value of the individual. This has led to the support of minority groups, greater interest in those of differing ethnic cultures, and a desire to let other nations seek their own destiny. This general climate is no doubt behind the attitudes that led to the pull-out in Vietnam, and accounts for the popularity of figures like presidential candidate McGovern and Governor Brown of California.
An interesting by-product is a movement that has been identified by researchers at Stanford Research Institute called Voluntary Simplicity. The values of this group include shifting their utilization of material goods from "consuming" to the increase of productivity and personal growth, of having a greater sense of personal participation in all endeavors, which often requires reducing the scale of the activities undertaken (as expressed by Schumaker in his book Small is Beautiful), placing more importance on self-determination, greater concern for the environment, and a central interest in personal growth and the value of inter-personal relationships. The results for society would be to change the emphasis on production from style appeal or quick profits to intelligent use of our resources and technology for the most good to the most people. Personal satisfaction would be sought from the more truly rewarding activities of personal accomplishment and human interaction. Stanford Research Institute's second report on this subject by Arnold Mitchell was the most popular report ever from SRI's Business Intelligence Program.
Less in doubt was the public's reaction to the new revolutionists whose experience were impelled by a heavy steam of outright rebelliousness. The most drastic change they produced was the music of our nation. Now it is the rare radio station that does not blare forth the new music, where sound amplitude and driving rhythm are substituted for melody, harmony, and expression. Dress also undertook drastic changes, as did hair styles. More disturbing is the irresponsible emphasis on pleasure and personal gratification, accompanied by frequent drug use.
And then of course were the downright casualties. Probably foremost among these in number are those who "dropped out," whose resentment toward established institutions include even our education processes. Their involvement with drug use seems to have crippled their faculty to plan, organize, or accomplish a goal. The most visible casualties, although fortunately a relatively small percent of the total users, were those who had psychotic episodes or personality disorganization. Some of these were left without the ability to pursue a meaningful course in life.
There no doubt have been many who have glimpsed enough of the Cosmic Vision to make great improvements in themselves and their ability to function and contribute to society. We must say that at this point, they have not been highly visible, and there is certainly no public acknowledgment of such beneficial results. In all fairness, we may say that perhaps the results are not yet all in, and greater elapsed time may give us a fresher perspective.
If the psychedelics are as valuable as enthusiastic users report, and if they truly are a tool to achieve Cosmic Consciousness, why have not the results been more outstanding? There are two main reasons, in my opinion. The first is lack of knowledge as to how to properly employ these substances, and the second is the peculiarity of the drug action itself which can blind us to our deficiencies, even when we think the results are excellent. With regard to the ignorance of use, it must be kept in mind that the action of drugs like LSD are enormously complicated, opening up profound areas of human experience. Many, many avenues may be pursued without realizing the potential for learning. Real personal advancement requires dedication and focus of effort and attention that indiscriminate users do not even know about. Nor do they have any way to know how short their experiences may fall from the potential of Cosmic Consciousness. Dedicated, well informed workers, with scrupulous honesty and broad life experience, offer the best hope of utilizing these substances for maximum benefit.
The second reason bears further amplification, as it does not appear to be a well understood phenomena. We must first ask ourselves, how is it possible for the action of a drug to propel us into Cosmic Consciousness? Assuming Cosmic Consciousness lies potentially within us and is available, as the drug experience substantiates, then the action of the drug must blank out those areas within us that prevent its realization! It is possible for us to remain completely blind to precisely those elements of our personality which we must resolve to establish permanent Cosmic Consciousness, especially if one is not highly motivated to advance. Retaining the exalted vision requires living in accordance with its principles, which requires change. Change is always difficult. Without change, old habits return, and we are easily seduced by the ways of the world. And it is much easier to have another drug experience, than to deal with the factors that are producing our relapse. One thing seems quite clear, that living in accordance with the new knowledge is the surest way of maintaining the new level of awareness. It is one of the characteristics of LSD, that without serious intention or experienced help, one can have repeated experiences over long periods of time without becoming free of basic personality deficiencies. On the other hand, once one decides to achieve and maintain a high level of awareness and assume full responsibility for it, LSD becomes an amazingly valuable tool to permit one to do so.
Now let us turn our attention to the inner cause of the consternation generated in society by the widespread use of psychedelics. The basic fear is that these agents may damage the mind. Yet science knows very little of the mind. For example, thinking is one of the most important, if not the most important, functions of mind. Yet we have not yet devised a course in our public school systems to teach children how to think. Those who know the most about psychedelics know that they are mind-releasers. They only reveal our inner selves, complex though these selves may be. For those seeking truth, this inner revelation may be most priceless. If these substances are truly sacraments, and their highest achievement is Cosmic Consciousness, is it not strange that what might be the highest possible activity on earth is totally banned? Is that how much man fears God? It would seem to be testimony that on a widespread basis, man has become estranged with his true inner self. Perhaps we have become so engrossed in our pursuit of technology, with our desire to dominate the world, with our own selfish interests that create such differences among people, that we do not dare look inside to see how far we have drifted.
But can we afford to overlook any avenue that holds promise for furthering man's evolution? Keeping in mind that it is the solution of the most difficult problems that can provide the most valuable breakthroughs, it seems imperative to explore a field that holds such promise for increasing human understanding, for exploring man and his mind, for even the possibility of finding an avenue to Cosmic Consciousness.
How may we proceed? First, we can assume personal responsibility for our own fear. Though this avenue may not be an area of personal interest, we can at least let those who so desire continue research.
Next, we can temper our judgment of the psychedelic revolution with greater understanding. After all, some of the things that have come to pass may well be advances for society, and in time prove to be even greater than we have thought. We can realize that many of the objectional features result from ignorance and immaturity. We can view those young people who seem to have created so many problems as being in an important stage of growing up, where more knowledge and guidance can provide substantial advancement. Knowing that there are broader dimensions, greater potentialities, we can concentrate on learning how to develop them.
Responsible papers already published demonstrate a great understanding of these new substances, how to administer them safely, and the conditions which facilitate learning. Now that the revolution has delivered its full force and we have survived, perhaps we can remove the stigma and encourage science to return to its endeavors, where the search for truth can bring benefits to us all.
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