THE ORIGINAL CAPTAIN TRIPS
The stout crew-cut figure riding in the Rolls-Royce was a mystery to those who knew him. A spy by profession, he lived a life of intrigue and adventure befitting his chosen career. Born dirt poor in Kentucky, he served with the OSS during the Second World War and went on to make a fortune as a uranium entrepreneur. His prestigious government and business connections read like a Who’s Who of the power elite in North America. His name was Captain Alfred M. Hubbard. His friends called him “Cappy,” and he was known as the “Johnny Appleseed of LSD.”
The blustery, rum-drinking Hubbard is widely credited with being the first person to emphasize LSD’s potential as a visionary or transcendental drug. His faith in the LSD revelation was such that he made it his life’s mission to turn on as many men and women as possible. “Most people are walking in their sleep,” he said. “Turn them around, start them in the opposite direction and they wouldn’t even know the difference.” But there was a quick way to remedy that—give them a good dose of LSD and “let them see themselves for what they are.”
That Hubbard, of all people, should have emerged as the first genuine LSD apostle is all the more curious in light of his longstanding affiliation with the cloak-and-dagger trade. Indeed, he was no run-of-the-mill spook. As a high-level OSS officer, the Captain directed an extremely sensitive covert operation that involved smuggling weapons and war material to Great Britain prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. In pitch darkness he sailed ships without lights up the coast to Vancouver, where they were refitted and used as destroyers by the British navy. He also flew planes to the border, took them apart, towed the pieces into Canada, and sent them to England. These activities began with the quiet approval of President Roosevelt nearly a year and a half before the US officially entered the war. To get around the neutrality snag, Hubbard became a Canadian citizen in a mock procedure. While based in Vancouver (where he later settled), he personally handled several million dollars filtered by the OSS through the American consulate to finance a multitude of covert operations in Europe. All this, of course, was highly illegal, and President Truman later issued a special pardon with kudos to the Captain and his men.
Not long after receiving this presidential commendation, Hubbard was introduced to LSD by Dr. Ronald Sandison of Great Britain. During his first acid trip in 1951, he claimed to have witnessed his own conception. “It was the deepest mystical thing I’ve ever seen,” the Captain recounted. “I saw myself as a tiny mite in a big swamp with a spark of intelligence. I saw my mother and father having intercourse. It was all clear.”
Hubbard, then forty-nine years old, eagerly sought out others familiar with hallucinogenic drugs. He contacted Dr. Humphry Osmond, a young British psychiatrist who was working with LSD and mescaline at Weyburn Hospital in Saskatchewan, Canada. Like most other researchers in the field, Osmond was primarily interested in psychosis and mental illness. In 1952 he shocked the medical world by drawing attention to the structural similarity between the mescaline and adrenaline molecules, implying that schizophrenia might be a form of self-intoxication caused by the body mistakenly producing its own hallucinogenic compounds. Osmond noted that mescaline enabled a normal person to see the world through the eyes of a schizophrenic, and he suggested that the drug be used as a tool for training doctors, nurses, and other hospital personnel to understand their patients from a more intimate perspective.
Osmond’s research attracted widespread attention within scientific circles. The CIA, ever intent on knowing the latest facts as early as possible, quickly sent informants to find out what was happening at Weyburn Hospital. Unbeknownst to Osmond and his cohorts, throughout the next decade they were contacted on repeated occasions by Agency personnel. Indeed, it was impossible for an LSD researcher not to rub shoulders with the espionage establishment, for the CIA was monitoring the entire scene.*
Osmond’s reports also caught the eye of Aldous Huxley, the eminent British novelist who for years had been preoccupied with the specter of drug-induced thought control. In 1931 Huxley wrote Brave New World, a futuristic vision of a totalitarian society in which the World Controllers chemically coerced the population into loving its servitude. While Huxley grappled with the question of human freedom under pharmacological attack, he also recognized that certain drugs, particularly the hallucinogens, produced radical changes in consciousness that could have a profound and beneficial effect. Upon learning of Osmond’s work, he decided to offer himself as a guinea pig.
Huxley seemed like the perfect subject. A learned man steeped in many disciplines, he was also gifted with a writer’s eloquence. Even if the drug confounded him, it would not tongue-tie him, for he was a glorious talker. But Osmond was still a bit apprehensive. “I did not relish the possibility, however remote, of being the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad,” he explained. His worries proved to be unfounded.
In May 1953, less than a month after the CIA initiated Operation MK-ULTRA, Huxley tried mescaline for the first time at his home in Hollywood Hills, California, under Osmond’s supervision. “It was,” according to Huxley, “without question the most extraordinary and significant experience this side of the Beatific Vision.” Moreover, “it opens up a host of philosophical problems, throws intense light and raises all manner of questions in the field of aesthetics, religion, theory of knowledge.”
Huxley described his mescaline adventure in his famous essay The Doors of Perception (which took its title from the works of William Blake, the eighteenth-century British poet and visionary artist). With this book Huxley unabashedly declared himself a propagandist for hallucinogenic drugs, and for the first time a large segment of the educated public became aware of the existence of these substances. Not surprisingly, the treatise created a storm in literary circles. Some hailed it as a major intellectual statement, others dismissed it as pure quackery. Few critics realized that the book would have such an enormous impact in years to come.
In The Doors of Perception Huxley elaborated on Henri Bergson’s theory that the brain and the nervous system are not the source of the cognitive process but rather a screening mechanism or “reducing valve” that transmits but a tiny fraction of “the Mind-at-Large,” yielding only the kind of information necessary for everyday matters of survival. If this screening mechanism was temporarily suspended, if the doors of perception were suddenly thrust open by a chemical such as mescaline or LSD, then the world would appear in an entirely new light. When he looked at a small vase of flowers, the mescal-inized Huxley saw “what Adam had seen on the morning of creation—the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence . . . flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged. . . . Words like ‘grace’ and ‘transfiguration’ came to my mind.”
Huxley obviously was not undergoing an “imitation psychosis.” On the contrary, he contended that the chemical mind-changers, when administered in the right kind of situation, could lead to a full-blown mystical experience. He went so far as to predict that a religious revival would “come about as the result of biochemical discoveries that will make it possible for large numbers of men and women to achieve a radical self-transcendence and a deeper understanding of the nature of things.”
Huxley recognized that the perceptions afforded by hallucinogens bore a striking similarity to experiences achieved without the use of drugs, either spontaneously or through various spiritual exercises. His writings reflected more than a passing interest in nonchemical methods of altering consciousness, such as hypnosis, sensory deprivation, prolonged sleeplessness, fasting—techniques closely scrutinized by the CIA as well, but for vastly different reasons. Whereas the CIA sought to impose an altered state on its victims in order to control them, Huxley’s explorations were self-directed and designed to expand consciousness. He was well aware of the potential dangers of behavior modification techniques and constantly warned of their abuse. Thus it is ironic that he unknowingly consorted with a number of scientists who were engaged in mind control research for the CIA and the US military.*
While writing Heaven and Hell (the sequel to The Doors of Perception) in 1955, Huxley had his second mescaline experience, this time in the company of Captain Al Hubbard. They were joined by philosopher Gerald Heard, a close friend of Huxley’s. “Your nice Captain tried a new experiment—group mescalinization,” Huxley wrote to Osmond. “Since I was in a group, the experience had a human content, which the earlier, solitary experience, with its Other Worldly quality and its intensification of aesthetic experience, did not possess. . . . it was a transcendental experience within this world and with human references.”
Later that same year, with the Captain again acting as a guide, Huxley took his first dose of LSD. Although he consumed only a tiny amount, the experience was highly significant. “What came through the closed door,” he stated, “was the realization—not the knowledge, for this wasn’t verbal or abstract—but the direct, total awareness, from the inside, so to say, of Love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact. These words, of course, have a kind of indecency and must necessarily ring false, seem like twaddle. But the fact remains. . .I was this fact; or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that this fact occupied the place where I had been.”
Huxley and his LSD mentor were a most improbable duo. The coarse, uneducated Captain lacked elegance and restraint (“I’m just a born son of a bitch!” he bellowed), while the tall, slender novelist epitomized the genteel qualities of the British intellectual. Yet the two men were evidently quite taken by each other. Huxley spoke admiringly of “the good Captain” whose uranium exploits served “as a passport into the most exalted spheres of government, business, and ecclesiastical polity.” In a letter to Osmond he commented, “What Babes in the Wood we literary gents and professional men are! The great World occasionally requires your services, is mildly amused by mine; but its full attention and deference are paid to Uranium and Big Business. So what extraordinary luck that this representative of both these Higher Powers should (a) have become so passionately interested in mescalin and (b) be such a very nice man.”
Despite their markedly different styles Huxley and Hubbard shared a unique appreciation of the revelatory aspect of hallucinogenic drugs. It was Hubbard who originally suggested that an LSD-induced mystical experience might harbor unexplored therapeutic potential. He administered large doses of acid to gravely ill alcoholics with the hope that the ensuing experience would lead to a drastic and permanent change in the way they viewed themselves and the world. (According to Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, the most important factor in recovery for alcoholics is “a deep and genuine religious experience.”) Once the individual’s rigidified notion of himself had been shattered, “extensive emotional reeducation” was much more likely. At this point the Captain took over. By using religious symbols to trigger psychic responses, he attempted to assist the patient in forming a new and healthier frame of reference that would carry over after the drug wore off. Hubbard found that everyone who went through this process seemed to benefit from it. A number of former alcoholics described their recovery as nothing short of “miraculous.” Buoyed by these results, the Captain proceeded to establish LSD treatment centers at three major hospitals in Canada, most notably Hollywood Hospital in Vancouver, where he resided.
Dr. Humphry Osmond was also working with alcoholics in Saskatchewan, but initially he approached the problem from a different vantage point. Osmond noted that some alcoholics decided to give up the bottle only after they “hit bottom” and suffered the withdrawal symptoms of delirium tremens. Could a large dose of LSD or mescaline simulate a controlled attack of the DTs? A “model delirium tremens,” so to speak, would be considerably less dangerous than the real thing, which normally occurs after years of heavy drinking and often results in death. Osmond’s hypothesis was still rooted in the psychotomimetic tradition. But then Hubbard came along and turned the young psychiatrist on to the religious meaning of his “madness mimicking” drug. The Captain showed Osmond how to harness LSD’s transcendent potential. Nearly a thousand hard-core alcoholics received high-dose LSD treatment at Weyburn Hospital, and the rate of recovery was significantly higher than for other forms of therapy—an astounding 50%.*
Osmond and his coworkers considered LSD the most remarkable drug they had ever come across. They saw no reason to restrict their studies to alcoholics. If LSD changed the way sick people looked at the world, would it not have as powerful an effect on others as well? With this in mind Osmond and Hubbard came up with the idea that LSD could be used to transform the belief systems of world leaders and thereby further the cause of world peace. Although few are willing to disclose the details of these sessions, a close associate of Hubbard’s insisted that they “affected the thinking of the political leadership of North America.” Those said to have participated in the LSD sessions include a prime minister, assistants to heads of state, UN representatives, and members of the British parliament. “My job,” said Hubbard, “was to sit on the couch next to the psychiatrist and put the people through it, which I did.”
Hubbard’s influence on the above-ground research scene went far beyond the numerous innovations he introduced: high-dose therapy, group sessions, enhancing the drug effect with strobe lights, and ESP experiments while under the influence of LSD. His impressive standing among business and political leaders in the United States and Canada enabled him to command large supplies of the hallucinogen, which he distributed freely to friends and researchers at considerable personal expense. “Cost me a couple of hundred thousand dollars,” he boasted. “I had six thousand bottles of it to begin with.” When Dr. Ross MacLean, the medical director at Hollywood Hospital in Vancouver, suggested that they form a partnership and set a price for administering LSD, Hubbard would hear nothing of it. For the Captain had “a mission,” as he put it, and making money never entered the picture.
Hubbard promoted his cause with indefatigable zeal, crisscrossing North America and Europe, giving LSD to anyone who would stand still. “People heard about it, and they wanted to try it,” he explained. During the 1950s and early 1960s he turned on thousands of people from all walks of life—policemen, statesmen, captains of industry, church figures, scientists. “They all thought it was the most marvelous thing,” he stated. “And I never saw a psychosis in any one of these cases.”
When certain US medical officials complained that Hubbard was not a licensed physician and therefore should not be permitted to administer drugs, the Captain just laughed and bought a doctor’s degree from a diploma mill in Kentucky. “Dr.” Hubbard had such remarkable credentials that he received special permission from Rome to administer LSD within the context of the Catholic faith. “He had kind of an incredible way of getting that sort of thing,” said a close associate who claimed to have seen the papers from the Vatican.
Hubbard’s converts included the Reverend J. E. Brown, a Catholic priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Rosary in Vancouver. After his initiation into the psychedelic mysteries, Reverend Brown recommended the experience to members of his parish. In a letter to the faithful dated December 8, 1957, he wrote, “We humbly ask Our Heavenly Mother the Virgin Mary, help of all who call upon Her to aid us to know and understand the true qualities of these psychedelics, the full capacities of man’s noblest faculties and according to God’s laws to use them for the benefit of mankind here and in eternity.”
Like a molecule at full boil, the Captain moved about at high speeds in all directions. He traveled around the world in his own plane (he was a registered pilot and master of sea vessels), buying up LSD and stashing it, swapping different drugs, and building an underground supply. “I scattered it as I went along,” he recalled. With his leather pouch full of “wampum” he rode the circuit, and those on the receiving end were always grateful. “We waited for him like the little old lady on the prairie waiting for a copy of the Sears Roebuck catalogue,” said Dr. Oscar Janiger, a Los Angeles psychiatrist.
Dr. Janiger was part of a small circle of scientists and literary figures in the Los Angeles area who began to use psychedelics at social gatherings in the mid-1950s. In addition to Huxley and Gerald Heard, those who participated in these drug-inspired intellectual discussions included philosopher Alan Watts, deep-sea diver Perry Bivens, and researchers Sidney Cohen, Keith Ditman, and Arthur Chandler. This informal group was the first to use LSD socially rather than clinically. Captain Al Hubbard, the wandering shaman who visited southern California on a regular basis, supplied the group with various chemicals.
“Something had to be done and I tried to do it,” Hubbard explained. He was, in his own words, “a catalytic agent” who had a “special, chosen role.” While this is certainly an accurate appraisal, he was also another kind of agent—an intelligence agent—which raises some intriguing questions about what he was really up to.
After his legendary exploits with the OSS, the Captain continued to serve as an undercover operative for various agencies within the US government. He had many contacts with the FBI, for example, and he claimed to be a close friend of J. Edgar Hoover’s. “That old bugger was tough, really tough,” Hubbard said with admiration. But when he tried to turn on the FBI chief, Hoover stubbornly declined. However, the Captain did manage to give the drug to “some top intelligence men in Washington, always with good results.”
During the early 1950s Hubbard was asked to join the CIA, but he refused. “They lied so much, cheated so much. I don’t like ‘em,” he snarled. “They’re lousy deceivers, sons of the devils themselves.” The Captain’s beef with the Agency stemmed in part from his unsuccessful attempt to secure back pay owed to him from his OSS days. “They crooked me,” he complained bitterly.
Hubbard was unkindly disposed toward the CIA for other reasons as well. Most important, he didn’t approve of what the Agency was doing with his beloved LSD. “The CIA work stinks,” he said. “They were misusing it. I tried to tell them how to use it, but even when they were killing people, you couldn’t tell them a goddamned thing.” (Hubbard was certain that Frank Olson was not the only person who died as a result of the CIA’s surprise acid tests.)
“I don’t know how Al’s Washington affairs were done,” Dr. Osmond admitted. “He was one of those naturally brilliant wheeler-dealers.” Indeed, Hubbard seemed to have a knack for popping up in the most unpredictable places. He worked for the Treasury Department as a young man during the Capone days, busting moonshiners and gangsters who were smuggling liquor into the US from Canada. Apparently he was able to ingratiate himself with both sides during Prohibition, as he subsequently became deputy chief of security for the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. “Those Mafia men were always interesting to talk to,” Hubbard remarked, “but they never smiled.”
The Captain also engaged in undercover work for a number of other government agencies, including the Federal Narcotics Bureau and the Food and Drug Administration (at a time when both organizations were assisting the CIA’s drug testing programs). During the mid-1960s he was employed by Teledyne, a major defense subcontractor, as “director of human factors research.” In this capacity Hubbard served as adviser and consultant to a combined navy and NASA project that involved testing the effects of psychochemical agents on a newly designed “helicopter avionics system.” Teledyne worked closely with various government organizations, including the CIA, to apply these techniques to additional areas of military interest.
While Hubbard was not a CIA operative per se, his particular area of expertise—hallucinogenic drugs—brought him into close contact with elements of the espionage community. The CIA must have known what he was up to, since Sandoz and the FDA kept the Agency informed whenever anyone received shipments of LSD. The Captain, of course, was one of their best customers, having purchased large amounts of the drug on different occasions.
In a sense “the mysterious Al” embodies the irony and ambiguity of the LSD story as a whole. As one of his friends put it, “Cappy was sort of a double agent. He worked for the government, but in his own way he was a rebel.” Some call him a “witch doctor,” others describe him as “an incurable scoundrel.” A most unlikely combination of mystic and redneck, Hubbard above all remains an enigma.
“Al Hubbard was a very strange man,” confided a fellow drug researcher, “but he probably knew more about LSD than anyone else in the world.” And while his tale has many gaps and fuzzy edges, this much can be established beyond a shadow of a doubt: his enthusiasm for LSD never waned. “Anyone who’ll try to tell me that this has all been a big hallucination has got to be out of their mind. . . . What I’ve seen with it has been the truth and nothing but the truth.”
And as a parting shot he added, “If you don’t think it’s amazing, all I’ve got to say is just go ahead and try it.”
By the late 1950s, according to Robert Bernstein, former assistant surgeon general of the American army, “perhaps by coincidence, LSD was almost simultaneously recognized by the army as a military threat and by certain segments of our US population as a means for self-fulfillment.” What puzzling characteristics does LSD possess that give rise to such disparate and seemingly contradictory points of view? How could the same drug be hailed as an unparalleled avenue to transcendental or visionary experiences and denounced as an agent of psychotic interludes?
Originally researchers viewed LSD solely in terms of its ability to create an experimental toxic psychosis. The LSD experience was synonymous with LSD psychosis—“good trips” were no exception. This frame of reference, uniformly shared by scientists at the outset of the 1950s, was typified by the comment of a CIA agent involved in the MK-ULTRA program: “Tripping and psychosis are one and the same. Tripping can be an awful schizoid feeling. Also there are hebephrenics—happy schizos. Their experience is similar to a good trip.”
Within a few years, however, reports with a different message began to circulate from Canada. After meeting Captain Hubbard, a small circle of researchers based in Saskatchewan broke with the psychotomimetic definition and started exploring new directions. Dr. Osmond noticed a significant discrepancy between the usual description of the drug experience as a close encounter with lunacy and the kinds of experiences reported by his patients when they were given LSD for their alcoholic problems. They often spoke of an LSD session as insightful and rewarding. Many subjects invoked superlatives, calling it an experience of great beauty. As the research at Weyburn Hospital progressed, it became apparent to Osmond and his cohorts that most people who took LSD did not become insane.
The terminology used to describe the LSD experience in the scientific literature did not sit well with Osmond. Words like hallucination and psychosis were loaded; they implied negative states of mind. The psychiatric jargon reflected a pathological orientation, whereas a truly objective science would not impose value judgments on chemicals that produced unusual or altered states of consciousness. Aldous Huxley also felt that the language of pathology was inadequate. He and Osmond agreed that a new word had to be invented to encompass the full range of effects of these drugs.
The two men had been close friends ever since Huxley’s initial mescaline experience, and they carried on a lively correspondence. At first Huxley proposed the word phanerothyme, which derived from roots relating to “spirit” or “soul.” A letter to Osmond included the following couplet:
To make this trivial world sublime,
Take half a Gramme of phanerothyme.
To which Osmond responded:
To fathom hell or soar angelic
Just take a pinch of psychedelic.
And so it came to pass that the word psychedelic was coined. Osmond introduced it to the psychiatric establishment in 1957. Addressing a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences, he argued that hallucinogenic drugs did “much more” than mimic psychosis, and therefore an appropriate name must “include concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision.” He suggested a neutral term to replace psychotomimetic, and his choice was certainly vague enough. Literally translated, psychedelic means “mind-manifesting,” implying that drugs of this category do not produce a predictable sequence of events but bring to the fore whatever is latent within the unconscious. Accordingly Osmond recognized that LSD could be a valuable tool for psychotherapy. This notion represented a marked departure from the military-medical paradigm, which held that every LSD experience was automatically an experimental psychosis.
Dr. Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD, thought Osmond’s choice appropriate, for it “corresponds better to the effects of these drugs than hallucinogenic or psychotomimetic.” The model psychosis concept was further called into question by published reports demonstrating that in many ways the comparison between naturally occurring and LSD-induced psychosis was facile. During the mid-1950s, researchers John MacDonald and James Galvin pointed out that schizophrenics did not experience the wealth of visual hallucinations common with LSD and mescaline but were prone to auditory aberrations, unlike drug subjects. Oddly enough, true schizophrenics hardly reacted to LSD unless given massive doses.
As the psychotomimetic paradigm began to weaken, the focus shifted toward investigating the therapeutic potential of LSD. Two forms of LSD therapy arose in the 1950s. The “psycholytic” or “mind-loosening” approach utilized low or moderate dosages of LSD as an adjunct to conventional psychoanalysis. Employed in repeated sessions, the drug was said to speed up the process of psychoexploration by reducing the patient’s defensiveness and facilitating the recollection of repressed memories and traumatic experiences. Stripped of his censorious attitude, the subject might experience a catharsis in a detached and heightened state of awareness, allowing him to retain his insights after the effects of the chemical subsided. The low-dose technique was practiced primarily in England, where Dr. Ronald Sandison established the first LSD clinic open to the public in 1953. Before long, additional centers specializing in this type of therapy sprang up in Germany, Holland, France, Italy, Czechoslovakia and several Scandinavian countries.
A different approach caught on more quickly in Canada and the United States. Psychedelic therapy, developed by Captain Al Hubbard and popularized by Dr. Humphry Osmond, was geared toward achieving a mystical or conversion experience. The procedure involved high dosages of LSD, precluding any possibility that the patient’s ego defenses could withstand psychic dissolution.
According to this therapeutic model, as the drug starts to take effect there is an unfixing of perceptual constants and the subject’s habitual reality ties are suspended. It is as though one were suddenly thrust into a Van Gogh canvas,- objects ripple and breathe, an onrush of stimuli bombard and penetrate the body. Sensory functions overlap in a manner that might best be described as polymorphously perverse: one can “hear” colors and “see” sounds. The world is felt to be an extension of the flesh. Existence is no longer a riddle to be solved but a mystery to behold.
During the apotheosis of the acid high, the self-concept may be diminished to the point of depersonalization. As poet Octavio Paz describes in Alternating Current, “The self disappears, but no other self appears to occupy the empty space it has left. No god but rather the divine. No faith but rather the primordial feeling that sustains all faith, all hope. Peace in the crater of the volcano, the reconciliation of man—what remains of man—with total presence.”
This state of consciousness was thought to be conducive to healing deep-rooted psychological wounds. The task of the therapist was to help the patient understand and assimilate the experience in a way that would maximize personal growth. Best results were obtained when the therapist shed his “doctor” status and assumed the role of guide or mentor, intervening only to help the initiate relax and “go with the flow.” To succeed, the therapist had to be well acquainted with the psychedelic terrain; this familiarity could only be gained by taking the drug and learning to direct a positive experience. (Osmond’s Golden Rule: “You start with yourself.”) It was not uncommon for a guide to take a small amount of LSD during the therapy session to increase his rapport with his patient.
Originally tested on alcoholics in Canada with remarkable results, high-dose therapy was subsequently applied to a wide range of diagnostic categories: juvenile delinquency, narcotics addiction, severe character neurosis, and the like. This approach was particularly effective in treating people who were emotionally blocked; they were able to cut through a lot of psychological red tape, so to speak, and get right to the heart of the matter. Oftentimes those who underwent psychedelic therapy reported dramatic personality changes involving not only the relief of neurotic symptoms but a wholesale revamping of value systems, religious and philosophical beliefs, and basic lifestyle. Numerous patients claimed that a few LSD trips proved more fruitful than years of psychoanalysis—at considerably less expense. In some cases spectacular success was achieved with only one dose of the drug.
LSD was the talk of the town in Hollywood and Beverly Hills in the late 1950s as various movie stars were dosed on the psychiatrist’s couch. Participants in such sessions included several of the glamor elite, each capable of generating a flash of publicity. Cary Grant first took LSD under the guidance of Dr. Mortimer Hartmann and then with Dr. Oscar Janiger. His therapy was such a success that he became a zealous missionary for LSD. “All my life,” Grant stated, “I’ve been searching for peace of mind. I’d explored yoga and hypnotism and made several attempts at mysticism. Nothing really seemed to give me what I wanted until this treatment.” People from all walks of life echoed Grant’s plaudits for the drug, and psychiatrists who practiced LSD therapy were inundated with inquiries.
Beatific, oceanic, redemptive—these words have been used to describe the peak of an LSD trip. But there is another side to it. To be cast about as flotsam in the power draughts of the universe can be a hellish as well as a heavenly ordeal. Both possibilities are rooted in the experience of depersonalization or ego loss. The CIA was not interested in the therapeutic applications of LSD. On the contrary, the men of ARTICHOKE and MK-ULTRA defined the drug as an anxiety-producing agent, and they realized it would be relatively easy to “break” a person who was exposed to highly stressful stimuli while high on acid. As one CIA document instructed, “[Whatever] reduces integrative capacity may serve to increase the possibility of an individual being overwhelmed by frustrations and conflicts hitherto managed successfully.” The powerful ego-shattering effects of LSD were ideally suited for this purpose. CIA and military interrogators proceeded to utilize the drug as an instrument of psychological torture.
That LSD can be used to heal as well as maim underscores an essential point: non-drug factors play an important role in determining the subject’s response. LSD has no standard effects that are purely pharmacological in nature; the enormous range of experiences produced by the chemical stems from differences in (i) the character structure and attitudinal predispositions (or “set”) of the subject, and (2) the immediate situation (or “setting”). If LSD is given in a relaxed and supportive environment and the subject is coached beforehand, the experience can be intensely gratifying. As Dr. Janiger put it, “LSD favors the prepared mind.”
For the unprepared mind, however, LSD can be a nightmare. When the drug is administered in a sterile laboratory under fluorescent lights by white-coated physicians who attach electrodes and nonchalantly warn the subject that he will go crazy for a while, the odds favor a psychotomimetic reaction, or “bummer.”
This became apparent to poet Allen Ginsberg when he took LSD for the first time at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, in 1959. Ginsberg was already familiar with psychedelic substances, having experimented with peyote on a number of occasions. As yet, however, there was no underground supply of LSD, and it was virtually impossible for layfolk to procure samples of the drug. Thus he was pleased when Gregory Bateson,* the anthropologist, put him in touch with a team of doctors in Palo Alto. Ginsberg had no way of knowing that one of the researchers associated with the institute, Dr. Charles Savage, had conducted hallucinogenic drug experiments for the US Navy in the early 1950s.
The experiment was conducted in a small room full of medical equipment and EEG machines, with no outer windows. Ginsberg was advised that he could listen to whatever music he wanted, so he chose Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and a recording of Gertrude Stein. “For some reason,” he recalled, “I thought you were supposed to lie down like in a hospital on a psychiatrist’s couch and let something slowly engulf you, which is what happened. I lay down and something slowly engulfed me.” As he started getting high, Ginsberg was put through a series of psychological tests—word association, Rorschach inkblots, arithmetic problems—which struck him as quite absurd at the time. “What difference does it make?” he kept asking the attendants. While they measured his psychological responses, the poet—having read Huxley—was waiting for God to show up inside his brain.
When it came time for the EEG tests, Ginsberg proposed a rather unusual experiment that had been suggested by his friend William S. Burroughs. He wanted to see what would happen if he looked at a stroboscope blinking in synchronization with his alpha rhythms while he was high on acid. The doctors connected the flicker machine to the EEG apparatus so that the alpha waves emanating from his brain set off the strobe effect. “It was like watching my own inner organism,” said Ginsberg. “There was no distinction between inner and outer. Suddenly I got this uncanny sense that I was really no different than all of this mechanical machinery around me. I began thinking that if I let this go on, something awful would happen. I would be absorbed into the electrical network grid of the entire nation. Then I began feeling a slight crackling along the hemispheres of my skull. I felt my soul being sucked out through the light into the wall socket and going out.”
Ginsberg had had enough. He asked the doctors to turn the flicker machine off, but the “high anxiety” lingered. The clinical atmosphere of the laboratory made it hard for him to relax. As the trip wore on, he got deeper and deeper into a tangle: “I had the impression that I was an insignificant speck on a giant spider web, and that the spider was slowly coming to get me, and that the spider was God or the Devil—I wasn’t sure—but I was the victim. I thought I was trapped in a giant web or network of forces beyond my control that were perhaps experimenting with me or were perhaps from another planet or were from some super-government or cosmic military or science-fiction Big Brother.”
Ginsberg spent the evening at the home of Dr. Joe Adams, the man who supervised the experiment. He retired to his room and tried to describe his first acid trip. While still high, he composed the poem “Lysergic Acid,” which begins with the following incantation:
It is a multiple million eyed monster
it is hidden in all its elephants and selves
it hummeth in the electric typewriter
it is electricity connected to itself, if it hath wires
it is a vast Spiderweb
and I am on the last millionth infinite tentacle of the spiderweb, a worrier
lost, separated, a worm, a thought, a self . . .
I alien Ginsberg a separate consciousness
I who want to be God . . .
It might appear that such ordeals amounted to a ravaging of the soul rather than its redemption. But Ginsberg thought otherwise. He and the other poets and artists associated with the beat generation sampled a veritable pharmacopoeia of different drugs in various dosages and combinations, and publicly extolled their virtues. They too viewed psychedelics as “truth drugs,” but unlike the CIA they were not attempting to control someone else’s mind. Rather, they used these substances to assert their creative autonomy. Most of all, the beats wanted to speak the truth about their lives. While the CIA prowled around in secret and hoarded information, the beats were open and candid about their chemically illumined voyages. Intoxicated states were the keystone of beat literature, and they chronicled their insights in poetry and prose. Occasionally they tripped together in small groups and later compared notes on how best to approach a psychedelic session. The beats were mapping uncharted zones of the human psyche, an effort Ginsberg likened to “being part of a cosmic conspiracy. . . to resurrect a lost art or a lost knowledge or a lost consciousness.”
The beats’ drug shamanism was bound up with romantic excess. In the midst of the spiritual blackout of the Cold War they searched for a “final fix” that would afford the vision of all visions. Their affinity for psychedelics reflected as much a desire to escape from a world they found unbearable as to tap the hidden realms of the psyche. Drugs were instrumental in catalyzing their rebellion against the overwhelming conformity of American culture. The beats had nothing but contempt for the strictures of a society anally fixated on success, cleanliness, and material possession. Whatever the mainstream tried to conceal, denigrate, or otherwise purge from experience, the beats flaunted. Their hunger for new sensations led them to seek transcendence through jazz, marijuana, Buddhist meditation, and the frenetic pace of the hip lifestyle.
It was the beats who railed most forcefully against the ghostly reserve of the 1950s. They understood that the problem was largely social in nature, but it was so extreme that the only sensible response was to become antisocial, to retreat into small groups or cabals of like-minded individuals and pursue radical options outside the cultural norm. The beats were pitchmen for another kind of consciousness. They encouraged the youth of America to take their first groping steps toward a psychological freedom from convention that opened the door to all manner of chemical experimentation. The beats bequeathed an inquisitive attitude, a precocious “set” for approaching the drug experience. As cultural expatriates they linked psychedelics to a tiny groundswell of nonconformity that would grow into a mass rebellion during the next decade.
Psychosis or Gnosis?
Therapeutic studies in the 1950s opened up new areas of investigation for a growing number of young psychiatrists. A particularly promising avenue of inquiry involved using LSD as a tool to explore the creative attributes of the mind. Dr. Oscar Janiger (the first person in the US to conduct a clinical investigation of DMT, or dimethyl-tryptamine, an extremely powerful short-acting psychedelic) noted that many of his patients reported vivid aesthetic perceptions frequently leading to a greater appreciation of the arts. One of his subjects claimed that a single acid trip was equal to “four years in art school” and urged Janiger to give the drug to other artists. This led to an experiment in which one hundred painters drew pictures before, during, and after an LSD experience. Everyone who participated considered their post-LSD creations personally more meaningful. Impressed by these results, Janiger proceeded to administer the psychedelic to various writers, actors, musicians, and filmmakers, including such notables as Anaïs Nin, André Previn, Jack Nicholson, James Coburn, Ivan Tors, and the great stand-up comedian Lord Buckley.*
While some interesting and highly original works of art have been produced during the acid high, the creative effects of LSD cannot be measured solely in terms of immediate artistic output. Even more important is the enlargement of vision, the acute awareness of vaster potentials that persists long after the drug has worn off. Janiger’s subjects frequently commented on the affinity between the drug-induced state and “what they felt might be an essential matrix from which the imaginative process derives.” Author William Burroughs, who experimented with hallucinogens on his own, agreed with this assessment: “Under the influence of mescaline I have had the experience of seeing a painting for the first time, and I found later that I could see the painting without using the drug. The same insights into music or the exposure to a powerful consciousness-expanding drug often conveys a permanent increase in the range of experience. Mescaline transports the user to unexplored psychic areas, and he can often find the way back without a chemical guide.”
The suggestion that LSD might enhance creativity was vigorously disputed by certain studies purporting to measure the impairment of normal mental functioning during the drugged state. The discrepancy between these studies and the personal testimony of the artists themselves underscored the shortcomings of the scientific modus operandi, which relied primarily on performance and aptitude tests and the like. In the end such tests yielded a morass of nebulous and contradictory data that shed little light on the psychological action of psychedelic agents. Dr. Osmond spoke for a growing number of researchers when he wrote, “Our preoccupation with behavior, because it is measurable, has led us to assume that what can be measured must be valuable and vice versa. . . . An emphasis on the measurable and the reductive has resulted in the limitation of interest by psychiatrists to aspects of experience that fit in with this concept.” According to Osmond, the most important features of the LSD experience—the overwhelming beauty, the awe and wonder, the existential challenge, the creative and therapeutic insights—would inevitably elude the scientist who viewed them merely as “epiphenomena of ‘objective’ happenings.”
The so-called objectivist approach was inherently flawed not only because it sought to quantify creative experience but also because it ignored the input of the observer, which always influenced the results of an LSD experiment. An acid high was a state of heightened suggestibility and acute sensitivity to environmental cues. The subject’s response was therefore largely influenced by the expectations of the person administering the drug. If the scientist viewed the LSD experience as essentially “psychotic,” he unwittingly contributed to this type of response, both through implicit suggestion and because he was not equipped to assist the subject in interpreting the altered state of consciousness. Under these circumstances a paranoid response with serious long-range repercussions was not uncommon. Such results, in turn, led to overgeneralization, to the point where the drug was defined as a stress-inducing agent.
The notion that LSD could be used to treat psychological problems seemed downright absurd to certain scientists in light of the drug’s long-standing identification with the simulation of mental illness. Those who operated within the psychotomimetic framework did not recognize that extrapharmacological variables—inadequate preparation, negative expectations, poorly managed sessions—were responsible for the adverse effects mistakenly attributed to the specific action of the drug. (According to the model psychosis scenario, there was really nothing to manage; just dose them and take the reaction.) They were appalled to learn that some psychotherapists were actually taking LSD with their patients. This was strictly taboo to the behaviorist, who refused to experiment on himself on the grounds that it would impair his ability to remain completely objective.
The chasm between the two schools of thought was not due to a communications breakdown or a lack of familiarity with the drug. The different methodologies were rooted in conflicting ideological frameworks. Behaviorism was still anchored in the materialist world view formalized by Newton,- the “psychedelic” evidence was congruent with the revolutionary implications of relativity theory and quantum mechanics. The belief in scientific objectivity had been shaken in 1927 when physicist Werner Heisenberg enunciated the “uncertainty principle,” which held that in subatomic physics the observer inevitably influenced the movement of the particles being observed. LSD research and many other types of studies suggested that an uncertainty principle of sorts was operative in psychology as well, in that the results were conditioned by the investigator’s preconceptions. The “pure” observer was an illusion, and those who thought they could conduct an experiment without “contaminating” the results were deceiving themselves.
Aldous Huxley felt that the “scientific” approach was utterly hopeless. “Those idiots want to be Pavlovians,” he said, “[but] Pavlov never saw an animal in its natural state, only under duress. The ‘scientific’ LSD boys do the same with their subjects. No wonder they report psychotics.” The practitioners of psychedelic therapy, on the other hand, were cognizant of the complex interaction between set and setting, and they worked to facilitate insight and personal growth.
Of course, even the best set and setting could not always guarantee an easy, pleasant, or uncomplicated experience. The goal of a therapeutic session was not to have a “good trip” per se but to work through emotional, creative or intellectual blockages and further the process of self-discovery—an ordeal that could be very painful at times. Certain schools of psychiatry—R. D. Laing, for example—recognized that “freaking out” might actually herald a positive breakthrough to a new level of awareness if properly integrated by the patient.* The idea that a turbulent acid trip could have therapeutic consequences reflected an ancient understanding of the human psyche and the principles governing the healing process.
The “perilous passing” through the chaotic realm of the bummer was structured into the drug rituals of primitive societies as part of the sacred “vision-quest.” The key figure in the hallucinogenic drama was the shaman, the witch doctor, the medicine man (or woman, as was often the case) who gave song to dreams and provided spiritual access for the entire tribe. A connoisseur of the drug-induced trance state, the shaman derived his or her strength from confronting the terror of ego death—the quintessential trial by fire that was seen as a necessary prelude to an ecstatic rebirth, the resurrection of a new personality.
The drug experience informed every aspect of life in traditional cultures. With the aid of hallucinogenic plants the witch doctor cured the sick, communicated with the spirits of the dead, foretold the future, and initiated young people in coming-of-age rites. The use of mind-altering substances within an ethos of combat and aggression was also common in primitive communities. Whatever the specific purpose, the shaman always employed the hallucinogen in a ceremonial context. An elaborate set of rituals governed every step of the process, from gathering the roots and herbs to preparing and administering the brew. The power plants were often poisonous and could be fatal if not prepared properly. Only a ritually clean person who had endured weeks or months of prayer and fasting, often in isolation from the community, was deemed ready to ingest these substances. Because of the shaman’s familiarity with states of consciousness induced by hallucinogenic drugs, he or she was considered qualified to pilot others through the experience.
“Primitive man,” wrote Huxley in 1931, “explored the pharmacological avenues of escape from the world with astounding thoroughness. Our ancestors left almost no natural stimulant, or hallucinant, or stupefacient, undiscovered.” To Huxley, the urge for transcendence and visionary experience was nothing less than a biological imperative. “Always and everywhere,” he asserted, “human beings have felt the radical inadequacy of being their insulated selves and not something else, something wider, something in the Wordsworthian phrase, ‘far more deeply interfused.’ . . . I live, yet not I, but wine or opium or peyotyl or hashish liveth in me. To go beyond the insulated self is such a liberation that, even when self-transcendence is through nausea into frenzy, through cramps into hallucinations and coma, the drug-induced experience has been regarded by primitives and even by the highly civilized as intrinsically divine.”
The use of mind-altering drugs as religious sacraments was not restricted to a particular time and place but characterized nearly every society on the planet (with the possible exception of certain Eskimo and Polynesian communities). For the Aztecs there was peyote and ololiuqui, a small lentil-like seed containing lysergic acid; the Aborigines of Australia chewed pituri, a desert shrub; the natives of the Upper Amazon had yagé, the telepathic vine. Those who floated into a sacred space after ingesting these substances often projected ecstatic qualities onto the plants themselves. Certain scholars believe that the fabled Soma of the ancient Vedic religion in northern India was actually the fly agaric mushroom, and there is strong evidence that ergot, from which LSD is derived, was the mysterious kykeon used for over two thousand years by the ancient Greeks in the annual Eleusinian Mysteries.*
When Christianity was adopted as the official creed of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, all other religions, including the Mysteries, were banished. Christian propagandists called for the destruction of the pagan drug cults that had spread throughout Europe after the Roman conquest. Like its shamanistic forebears, paganism was rooted in rapture rather than faith or doctrine; its mode of expression was myth and ritual, and those who carried on the forbidden traditions possessed a vast storehouse of knowledge about herbs and special medicaments. The witches of the Middle Ages concocted brews with various hallucinogenic compounds—belladonna, thorn apple, henbane and bufotenine (derived from the sweat gland of the toad Bufo marinus)—and when the moon was full they flew off on their imaginary broomsticks to commune with spirits.t
The ruthless suppression of European witchcraft by the Holy Inquisition coincided with attempts to stamp out indigenous drug use among the colonized natives of the New World. The Spanish outlawed peyote and coca leaves in the Americas, and the British later tried to banish kava use in Tahiti. Such edicts were part of an imperialist effort to impose a new social order that stigmatized the psychedelic experience as a form of madness or possession by evil spirits. It wasn’t until the late eighteenth century that industrial civilization produced its own “devil’s advocate,” which spoke in a passionate and lyrical voice. The romantic rebellion signified “a return of the repressed” as drugs were embraced by the visionary poets and artists who lived as outcasts in their own society. Laudanum, a tincture of opium, catalyzed the literary talents of Coleridge, Poe, Swinburne, De Quincey, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, while the best-known French writers, including Baudelaire, de Nerval, and Victor Hugo, gathered at Le Club des Haschischins, a pro-tobohemian enclave in Paris founded by Théophile Gautier in 1844.*
For the visionary poets modern society was the bummer, and they often viewed the drug experience as a tortured means to a fuller existence, to a life more innately human. It was with the hope of alleviating his own tortured mental condition that Antonin Artaud made an intercontinental trek in the 1930s to participate in the peyote ritual of the Tarahumara Indians in the Mexican highlands. Artaud did not undertake such a risky journey as a tourist or an anthropologist but as someone who wished to be healed, as a spiritual exile seeking to regain “a Truth which the world of Europe is losing.” The desperate Frenchman experienced a monumental bummer—“the cataclysm which was my body. . . this dislocated assemblage, this piece of damaged geology.” Yet somehow, despite the nightmare visions and the somatic discomfort, he managed to scratch out a perception of the Infinite. “Once one has experienced a visionary state of mind,” Artaud wrote in The Peyote Dance, “one can no longer confuse the lie with truth. One has seen where one comes from and who one is, and one no longer doubts what one is. There is no emotion or external influence that can divert one from this reality.”
Like Artaud and the romantic poets, some psychiatrists who used LSD in a therapeutic context believed that a disruptive experience could have a curative effect if allowed to proceed to resolution. Many other researchers, however, dismissed transcendental insight as either “happy psychosis” or a lot of nonsense. The knee-jerk reaction on the part of the psychotomimetic stalwarts was indicative of a deeply ingrained prejudice against certain varieties of experience. In advanced industrial societies “paranormal” states of consciousness are readily disparaged as “abnormal” or pathological. Such attitudes, cultural as much as professional, played a crucial role in circumscribing the horizon of scientific investigation into hallucinogenic agents.
Thomas Kuhn, in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, argues that the scientist’s overriding need to make sense of his data compels him to mold it to the prevailing scientific paradigm, which defines “legitimate” problems and methods for a given historical era. There are moments, however, when the orthodox framework cannot bear the weight of irrefutable new evidence. A period of controversy ensues until a new paradigm emerges to encompass and transcend the previous ideology. During this transition period scientists who buck the status quo are often castigated as eccentric, irresponsible, and unscientific. Galileo, for example, was branded a lunatic and a heretic for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun. In a similar fashion the psychedelic evidence challenged the entrenched world view of the psychiatric establishment, and proponents of LSD therapy were summarily denounced and ridiculed by those who were fixated on the model psychosis concept.
Dr. Humphry Osmond defended his position by emphasizing that the pathological bias, from a historical perspective, was clearly the exception and not the rule. In many cultures that were less sophisticated technologically but more so ecologically, the drug-induced trance state was revered as an enlargement of reality rather than a deviation from it. Osmond pleaded with his fellow researchers not to dismiss something that struck them as unusual or different simply because “it transcends those fashionable ruts of thinking that we dignify by calling logic and reason.” He urged psychiatrists to change their outlook in order to realize the full potential of psychedelics.
While many young doctors rallied to his call, there were others, including certain influential scientists working under CIA and military contract, who refused to budge from the psychotomimetic posture. The debate between the two camps came to a head at the first international conference on LSD therapy in 1959. Sponsored by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation (at times a CIA conduit), it was perhaps the most important gathering of LSD researchers to date for it enabled workers in the field to compare notes and analyze their findings as a group. The conference was chaired by Dr. Paul Hoch, a prominent and well-connected scientist who was, in the words of Sanford Unger, “an opinion leader.” Hoch was also a longtime CIA consultant and a contract employee of the US Army Chemical Corps. Dr. Harold Abramson, a veteran of the CIA’s MK-ULTRA program, served as recording secretary, and a number of other scientists who rented their services to the CIA and the military were featured speakers. Hoch and Abramson did not just stumble into their respective roles at this event. Their status as dominant figures in aboveground LSD research suggests the extent to which covert interests influenced the course of the debate over hallucinogenic substances and their effects.
Despite ample evidence to the contrary Dr. Hoch stubbornly insisted that LSD and mescaline were “essentially anxiety-producing drugs.” He asserted that they were “not especially useful” in a therapeutic context because they disorganize the psychic integration of a person. LSD experiments, according to the chairman, could not be compared with “results obtained in patients where tranquilizing drugs were used to reduce, instead of stir up the patient’s symptoms.”
Dr. Hoch was incredulous when other participants in the Macy conference reported that their patients found the LSD session beneficial and personally rewarding and were usually eager to take the drug again. “In my experience,” Hoch announced, “no patient asks for it again.” His experience included the following mescaline experiment conducted on a thirty-six-year-old male diagnosed as a “pseudoneurotic schizophrenic.”
He had some visual hallucinations. He saw dragons and tigers coming to eat him and reacted to these hallucinations with marked anxiety. He also had some illusionary distortions of the objects in the room. The emotional changes were apprehension and fear—at times mounting to panic, per-secutory misinterpretation of the environment, fear of death, intense irritability, suspiciousness, perplexity, and feelings of depersonalization. He verbalized the feelings of depersonalization as “floating out of space,” seemed “between this life and the next,” and had the feeling of being born. The paranoid content concerned essentially why the doctors were taking notes and fear that he would be attacked by them. He also expressed an ecstatic grandiose trend of having the feeling that he was God in heaven and then, however, had the feeling of being in hell. . . . The mental picture was that of a typical schizophrenic psychosis while the drug influence lasted.
As an afterword, Hoch noted, “This patient received transorbital lobotomy and showed temporarily a marked improvement in all his symptoms, losing most of his tension and anxiety. Postoperatively he was again placed under mescaline. Basically the same manifestations were elicited as prior to the operation with the exception that quantitatively the symptoms were not as marked as before.”
Dr. Hoch also tried electroshock treatment on patients who had been given mescaline. “It did not influence the clinical symptoms at all,” he reported matter-of-factly. “The patients continued to behave in the same way as prior to electroshock treatment.” On the basis of these tests Hoch concluded that electroshock “has no influence on mescaline-produced mental states.” He might have revised his “objective” assessment if he had taken the drug himself and had one of his assistants apply the volts while he tripped the lights fantastic. But those who secretly funded his research required only that he dish it out to mental patients and prisoners.
“An interesting theory can always outrun a set of facts,” declared psychologist Audrey Holliday. She found the whole psychotomi-metic approach guilty of using “unscientific and intemperate terms.” Yet the semantic inaccuracies were still being bandied about even when most researchers had agreed that LSD did not really mimic endogenous schizophrenia.
Despite widespread acknowledgment that the model psychosis concept had outlived its usefulness, the psychiatric orientation articulated by those of Dr. Hoch’s persuasion prevailed in the end. When it came time to lay down their hand, the medical establishment and the media both “mimicked” the line that for years had been secretly promoted by the CIA and the military—that hallucinogenic drugs were extremely dangerous because they drove people insane, and all this talk about creativity and personal growth was just a lot of hocus pocus. This perception of LSD governed the major policy decisions enacted by the FDA and the drug control apparatus in the years ahead.
Richard Helms, CIA Director from 1967-1973, described LSD as “dynamite” (AP/Wide World Photos)
Dr. Sidney Gootlieb, chief of the CIA’s Technical Service Staff, who ran the super-secret MK-ULTRA program. (George Tames/The New York Times)
George Hunter White, high-ranking narcotics official, shown in December 1952, when he began administering LSD to unwitting American citizens at the behest of the CIA. “It was fun, fun, fun,” White said. “Where else could a re-blooded American lie, kill, cheat, and rape, with the sanction of the all-highest?” (New York Daily News Photo)
Major General William Creasy, chief officer of the US Army‘s Chemical Corps in the 1950‘s preached a new military gospel of “war without death.” During Congressional testimony Creasy called for the testing of hallucinogenic gases on subways in Amercian cities. (The New York Times)
Captain Alfred M. Hubbard, the spy who became the first Johnny Applessed of LSD. “If you don‘t think it‘s amazing,” said Hubbaard, “just go ahead and try it.” (Courtesy of Bill Darling)
Aldous Huxley, author of Doors of Perception, the seminal psychedelic manifesto, and his wife, Laura. (AP/Wide World Photos)
The molecular structure of d-lysergic diethylamide.
Dr. Albert Hofmann, the grandfather of the acid generation in his laboratory at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland. (Sandoz, AG, Basel)
Cover page of a once-classified CIA memorandum on LSD-25
Ralph Metzner (left) and Timothy Leary (right) in front of the palatial Millbrook estate. (New York Daily News Photo)
William Mellon Hitchock (right), millionaire owner of Millbrook, taking part in a Tai Chi session with Leary (left) at the mansion. (Eugene Anthony)
The Merry Pranksters traveled across the US in a psychedelic bus in the summer of 1964. (Eugene Anthony)
Ken Kesey first turned on to LSD through a government-funded drug program at Stanford. (UPI/ Bettmann Newsphotos)
Kesey and the Pranksters hosted a series of aid tests on the West Coast.
Thousands “freaked freely” at the three-day Trip Festival in Fransico, January 1966. (Eugene Anthony)
Allen Ginsberg, poet laureate of the acid subculture, shown testifying at Senate hearings on drug abuse. Ginsberg stated that there had been a “journalistic exaggeration” of the dangers of LSD. (AP/Wide World Photos)
Poster announcing the first human be-in.
25,000 gathered in Golden Gate Park for the first human be-in, January 1967. (Eugene Anthony)
Slogan adopted by the flower children.
Anti-war demonstrates at the Pentagon, October 1967. (Paul Conklin, Time)
Yippies Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin burning money at the New York Stock Exchange. (AP/Wide World Photos)
Undercover police agent posing as a hippie radical. (AP/Wide World Photos)
Woodstock rock festival, August 1969. (New York Daily News Photos)
Ronald Stark manufactured 50 million hits of black market LSD in the late 1960‘s and early 1970‘s. He was later exposed as a CIA informant by Italian authorities. (Ansa)