I’m taking a break this week from my still ongoing plant high series, to have a little look at a few of the movers and shakers in the modern psychedelic movement. This will be a new series, looking at different time periods in drug history in various cultures.
“When you study natural science and the miracles of creation, if you don’t turn into a mystic you are not a natural scientist” – Hoffman
Albert Hofmann synthesized LSD for the first time in 1938, looking for something else. It wasn’t until 1943 when he accidentally consumed some, that he realized it was hallucinogenic. Hoffman was a proponent of the new and modern practice of micro-dosing, seeing LSD primarily as a low dose tonic that improves the mind, and mental health. He also became quite mystical, like many who explore these drugs. He is still held as the symbol of increased research and legal acceptance for psychedelic drugs as therapeutics and mind expansion tools.
“I share the belief of many of my contemporaries that the spiritual crisis pervading all spheres of Western industrial society can be remedied only by a change in our world view.” – Hoffman
LSD and Modern Psychedelics
Until more recently, most drugs were still available, legal, and at least purchasable via mail order. The military have studied LSD extensively, mostly for mind control, stress testing and as a truth serum. It was in 1967 after the boom days of LSD general psychiatric experimentation and personal use, that it was banned, following public hysteria.
LSD has been connected to the hippy movement, psychedelic rock, psychedelic trance, rave, the micro-dosing business community, psychology/psychiatry, new scientific research, our understanding of consciousness and much more besides. It has driven culture in a way that is new for modern people.
Indeed, it has created an interest in eastern cultures, altered states, mindfulness and meditation, changed our very scientific understanding of ourselves. Psychedelic drugs have in a very real and tangible sense produced a revolution of the mind in modern society. There is no question we’d be different if we hadn’t discovered them.
In the Kitchen
Alexander Shulgin was a pharmacologist. He worked with the DEA, granting him a schedule one license for his lab. He developed and sampled over 230 psychoactive chemicals. He is one of the recreational pioneers of MDMA, and developed numerous drugs that eventually ended up on the street, and particular in the dance music community, and later the legal synthetic industry.
Drugs like 2-CB, 5-Meo-DALT. Almost everything we see today in chemical drugs, is touched by Shulgin’s work, and shaped by his understanding, and experiments with his friends, exploring the psychedelic chemical landscape.
In the parlance on the street, he was the worlds ultimate cook.
“How long will this last, this delicious feeling of being alive, of having penetrated the veil which hides beauty and the wonders of celestial vistas? It doesn’t matter, as there can be nothing but gratitude for even a glimpse of what exists for those who can become open to it.” -Shulgin
Timothy Leary was a psychologist and activist, advocating for psychedelic drugs to be used in therapeutic and controlled settings. He conducted several experiments on LSD and psilocybin. He was a part of the 1960s counter culture movement, and he developed a philosophy of mind expansion and personal living. His writing style in his books are simultaneously intelligent and yet symbolic, contradictory and a trip of a sort in itself.
He is also credited with work with the profoundly psychedelic tryptamine DMT, in describing a sort of seemingly universal experience of those who take the drug, a vision of travelling through a tunnel or corridor of light patterns into a weird world populated by strange creatures, which has inspired more than a passing interest by the public in this drug.
“The PC is the LSD of the ’90s.” – Leary
Writer and Mystic
Aldous Huxley cannot be missed in such a quick tour of the big names. He is a writer, he wrote the predictive and culturally iconic ‘1984’. He also wrote the nearly as iconic ‘The Doors of Perception’, a psychedelic cultural go-to. His works are mystically coherent and socially profound.
“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” – Huxley
He created for example, the following interesting model. The idea is simply this, that the brain, the body, the mind, is simply like a radio. A receiver, rather than a source of consciousness. The consciousness is more like a signal we tune into and narrow down. That beyond our little narrow band of reception lies a seething sea of conscious experience – and that is what we touch on briefly, under the influence of psychedelics, altered states or in madness.
“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” – Huxley