LSD — My Problem Child
10. Various Visitors
The diverse aspects, the multi-faceted emanations of LSD are
also expressed in the variety of cultural circles with which this substance
has brought me into contact. On the scientific plane, this has involved
colleagues-chemists, pharmacologists, physicians, and mycologists—whom I
met at universities, congresses, lectures, or with whom I came into association
through publication. In the literary-philosophical field there were contacts
with writers. In the preceding chapters I have reported on the relationships
of this type that were most significant for me. LSD also provided me with
a variegated series of personal acquaintances from the drug scene and from
hippie circles, which will briefly be described here.
Most of these visitors came from the United States and were
young people, often in transit to the Far East in search of Eastern wisdom
or of a guru; or else hoping to come by drugs more easily there. Prague
also was sometimes the goal, because LSD of good quality could at the time
easily be acquired there. [Translator's Note: When Sandoz's patents on LSD
expired in 1963, the Czech pharmaceutical firm Spofa began to manufacture
the drug.] Once arrived in Europe, they wanted to take advantage of the
opportunity to see the father of LSD, "the man who made the famous LSD bicycle
trip." But more serious concerns sometimes motivated a visit. There was
the desire to report on personal LSD experiences and to debate the purport
of their meaning, at the source, so to speak. Only rarely did a visit prove
to be inspired by the desire to obtain LSD when a visitor hinted that he
or she wished once to experiment with most assuredly pure material, with
Visitors of various types and with diverse desires also came
from Switzerland and other European countries. Such encounters have become
rarer in recent times, which may be related to the fact that LSD has become
less important in the drug scene. Whenever possible, I have welcomed such
visitors or agreed to meet somewhere. This I considered to be an obligation
connected with my role in the history of LSD, and I have tried to help by
instructing and advising.
Sometimes no true conversation occurred, for example with
the inhibited young man who arrived on a motorbike. I was not clear about
the objective of his visit. He stared at me, as if asking himself: can the
man who has made something so weird as LSD really look so completely ordinary?
With him, as with other similar visitors, I had the feeling that he hoped,
in my presence, the LSD riddle would somehow solve itself.
Other meetings were completely different, like the one with
the young man from Toronto. He invited me to lunch at an exclusive restaurant—impressive
appearance, tall, slender, a businessman, proprietor of an important industrial
firm in Canada, brilliant intellect. He thanked me for the creation of LSD,
which had given his life another direction. He had been 100 percent a businessman,
with a purely materialistic world view. LSD had opened his eyes to the spiritual
aspect of life. Now he possessed a sense for art, literature, and philosophy
and was deeply concerned with religious and metaphysical questions. He now
desired to make the LSD experience accessible in a suitable milieu to his
young wife, and hoped for a similarly fortunate transformation in her.
Not as profound, yet still liberating and rewarding, were
the results of LSD experiments which a young Dane described to me with much
humor and fantasy. He came from California, where he had been a houseboy
for Henry Miller in Big Sur. He moved on to France with the plan of acquiring
a dilapidated farm there, which he, a skilled carpenter, then wanted to
restore himself. I asked him to obtain an autograph of his former employer
for my collection, and after some time I actually received an original piece
of writing from Henry Miller's hand.
A young woman sought me out to report on LSD experiences that
had been of great significance to her inner development. As a superficial
teenager who pursued all sorts of entertainments, and quite neglected by
her parents, she had begun to take LSD out of curiosity and love of adventure.
For three years she took frequent LSD trips. They led to an astonishing
intensification of her inner life. She began to seek after the deeper meaning
of her existence, which eventually revealed itself to her. Then, recognizing
that LSD had no further power to help her, without difficulty or exertion
of will she was able to abandon the drug. Thereafter she was in a position
to develop herself further without artificial means. She was now a happy
intrinsically secure person—thus she concluded her report. This young woman
had decided to tell me her history, because she supposed that I was often
attacked by narrow-minded persons who saw only the damage that LSD sometimes
caused among youths. The immediate motive of her testimony was a conversation
that she had accidentally overheard on a railway journey. A man complained
about me, finding it disgraceful that I had spoken on the LSD problem in
an interview published in the newspaper. In his opinion, I ought to denounce
LSD as primarily the devil's work and should publicly admit my guilt in
Persons in LSD delirium, whose condition could have given
rise to such indignant condemnation, have never personally come into my
sight. Such cases, attributable to LSD consumption under irresponsible circumstances,
to overdosage, or to psychotic predisposition, always landed in the hospital
or at the police station. Great publicity always came their way.
A visit by one young American girl stands out in my memory
as an example of the tragic effects of LSD. It was during the lunch hour,
which I normally spent in my off
ice under strict confinement—no visitors, secretary's office closed up.
Knocking came at the door, discretely but firmly repeated, until eventually
I went to open it. I scarcely believed my eyes: before me stood a very beautiful
young woman, blond, with large blue eyes, wearing a long hippie dress, headband,
and sandals. "I am Joan, I come from New York—you are Dr. Hofmann?" Before
I inquired what brought her to me, I asked her how she had got through the
two checkpoints, at the main entrance to the factory area and at the door
of the laboratory building, for visitors were admitted only after telephone
query, and this flower child must have been especially noticeable. "I am
an angel, I can pass everywhere," she replied. Then she explained that she
came on a great mission. She had to rescue her country, the United States;
above all she had to direct the president (at the time L. B. Johnson) onto
the correct path. This could be accomplished only by having him take LSD.
Then he would receive the good ideas that would enable him to lead the country
out of war and internal difficulties.
Joan had come to me hoping that I would help her fulfill her
mission, namely to give LSD to the president. Her name would indicate she
was the Joan of Arc of the USA. I don't know whether my arguments, advanced
with all consideration of her holy zeal, were able to convince her that
her plan had no prospects of success on psychological, technical, internal,
and external grounds. Disappointed and sad she went away. Next day I received
a telephone call from Joan. She again asked me to help her, since her financial
resources were exhausted. I took her to a friend in Zurich who provided
her with work, and with whom she could live. Joan was a teacher by profession,
and also a nightclub pianist and singer. For a while she played and sang
in a fashionable Zurich restaurant. The good bourgeois clients of course
had no idea what sort of angel sat at the grand piano in a black evening
dress and entertained them with sensitive playing and a soft and sensuous
voice. Few paid attention to the words of her songs; they were for the most
part hippie songs, many of them containing veiled praise of drugs. The Zurich
performance did not last long; within a few weeks I learned from my friend
that Joan had suddenly disappeared. He received a greeting card from her
three months later, from Israel. She had been committed to a psychiatric
For the conclusion of my assortment of LSD visitors, I wish
to report about a meeting in which LSD figured only indirectly. Miss H.
S., head secretary in a hospital, wrote to ask me for a personal interview.
She came to tea. She explained her visit thus: in a report about an LSD
experience, she had read the description of a condition she herself had
experienced as a young girl, which still disturbed her today; possibly I
could help her to understand this experience.
She had gone on a business trip as a commercial apprentice.
They spent the night in a mountain hotel. H. S. awoke very early and left
the house alone in order to watch the sunrise. As the mountains began to
light up in a sea of rays, she was perfused by an unprecedented feeling
of happiness, which persisted even after she joined the other participants
of the trip at morning service in the chapel. During the Mass everything
appeared to her in a supernatural luster, and the feeling of happiness intensified
to such an extent that she had to cry loudly. She was brought back to the
hotel and treated as someone with a mental disorder.
This experience largely determined her later personal life.
H.S. feared she was not completely normal. On the one hand, she feared this
experience, which had been explained to her as a nervous breakdown; on the
other hand, she longed for arepetitionof the condition. Internally split,
she had led an unstable life. In repeated vocational changes and in varying
personal relationships, consciously or unconsciously she again sought this
ecstatic outlook, which once made her so deeply happy.
I was able to reassure my visitor. It was no psychopathological
event, no nervous breakdown that she had experienced at the time. What many
people seek to attain with the help of LSD, the visionary experience of
a deeper reality, had come to her as spontaneous grace. I recommended a
book by Aldous Huxley to her, The Perennial Philosophy (Harper, New
York & London, 1945) a collection of reports of spontaneous blessed
visions from all times and cultures. Huxley wrote that not only mystics
and saints, but also many more ordinary people than one generally supposes,
experience such blessed moments, but that most do not recognize their importance
and, instead of regarding them as promising rays of hope, repress them,
because they do not fit into everyday rationality.
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