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02 May 2008

First Day Issue: Tierra de los Sueños / TdSPosta / Albert Hofmann

As always, click for larger, clearer.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Robert Merkin, All Rights Reserved.

Bob the One-Man-Band from Vleeptron will have more to say about the passing of Dr. Albert Hofmann, but for now this First Day Issue, from Tierra de los Sueños, commemorating Hofmann and his discovery of Lysergic Acid (Sauer, the S in LSD)
Diethylamide-25. That's the Stuff at bottom center of the Quilt, and again, a reflection of my profound ignorance of biochemistry -- how the hell can something with so few atoms do so much so powerfully? How can about 50 atoms create Woodstock and Yoko Ono, and inspire 100,000 people to surround and attempt to levitate the Pentagon with magickal incantations?

The other squares of the Quilt are famous image brands of blotter acid, mostly from California, from the late 1960s to the 1980s.

I wish to express my gratitude to the United States Army and the Vietnam War for arranging the circumstances that first acquainted me with LSD. I am also grateful to Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band, Geoff and Maria Muldaur, some of the Beatles and some of their songs ("Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," e.g.), and many others for the wonderful background music for these swell adventures into Inner Space.

Oh, hi Timothy Leary!

I can't imagine how gray and colorless those years would have been without the worldwide explosion of imagination, creativity, music, art, and spiritual self-exploration that Dr. Hofmann discovered in his Sandoz research lab.

The Stuff is still around. I keep reading police stories of seizures of LSD hither and yon, although it seems to have descended from the finest college campuses to less prestigious schools, and now has a blue-collar working-class cachet rather than being the handmaiden of the Ivy League.

In "Kids' Greatest Hits," a collection of authentic schoolyard songs of little children by Simpsons creater Matt Groening, this little ditty, to the tune of "Frere Jacques":

Marijuana, marijuana
College kids are makin' it
High school kids are takin' it
Why can't we?
Why can't we?

If you ever went on one of these Inner Space Adventures -- and the Statute of Limitations has expired -- please Leave A Comment. Did it destroy your world? Did it destroy Planet Earth? Was it a worse scourge than the Vietnam War? Was it a worse scourge than the Iraq War? What do you recall of your Adventures? What music were you listening to? Were you wearing clothes? Did you stare at the Sun for hours until you went blind? Did you murder your grandmother? Did you meet and chat with God? Was she overweight?


The Associated Press
(US newswire)
Thursday 1 May 2008

Albert Hofmann,
father of drug LSD,
dies in Switzerland

by Frank Jordans

GENEVA (AP) — Albert Hofmann, the father of the mind-altering drug LSD whose medical discovery inspired — and arguably corrupted — millions in the 1960s hippie generation, has died. He was 102.

Hofmann died Tuesday at his home in Burg im Leimental, said Doris Stuker, a municipal clerk in the village near Basel where Hofmann moved following his retirement in 1971.

For decades after LSD was banned in the late 1960s, Hofmann defended his invention.

"I produced the substance as a medicine. ... It's not my fault if people abused it," he once said.

The Swiss chemist discovered lysergic acid diethylamide-25 in 1938 while studying the medicinal uses of a fungus found on wheat and other grains at the Sandoz pharmaceuticals firm in Basel.

He became the first human guinea pig of the drug when a tiny amount of the substance seeped onto his finger during a laboratory experiment on April 16, 1943.

"I had to leave work for home because I was suddenly hit by a sudden feeling of unease and mild dizziness," he subsequently wrote in a memo to company bosses.

He said his initial experience resulted in "wonderful visions."

"What I was thinking appeared in colors and in pictures," he told a Swiss television network for a program marking his 100th birthday two years ago. "It lasted for a couple of hours and then it disappeared."

Three days later, Hofmann experimented with a larger dose. The result was a horror trip.

"Everything I saw was distorted as in a warped mirror," he said, describing his bicycle ride home. "I had the impression I was rooted to the spot. But my assistant told me we were actually going very fast."

"The substance which I wanted to experiment with took over me. I was filled with an overwhelming fear that I would go crazy. I was transported to a different world, a different time," Hofmann wrote.

Hofmann and his scientific colleagues hoped that LSD would make an important contribution to psychiatric research. The drug exaggerated inner problems and conflicts and thus it was hoped that it might be used to recognize and treat mental illnesses like schizophrenia.

For a time, Sandoz sold LSD 25 under the name Delysid, encouraging doctors to try it themselves. It was one of the strongest drugs in medicine — with just one gram enough to drug an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people for 12 hours.

LSD was elevated to international fame in the late 1950s and 1960s thanks to Harvard professor Timothy Leary who embraced the drug under the slogan "turn on, tune in, drop out."

But away from the psychedelic trips, horror stories emerged about people going on murder sprees or jumping out of windows while hallucinating. Heavy users suffered permanent psychological damage.

The U.S. government banned LSD in 1966 and other countries followed suit.

Hofmann maintained this was unfair, arguing that the drug was not addictive. He repeatedly argued for the ban to be lifted to allow LSD to be used in medical research.

Peter Oehen, a psychiatrist in the Swiss town of Biberist, says substances such as LSD and MDMA — also known as ecstasy — can produce results where conventional psychotherapies fail.

"They help overcome the wall of denial that some patients build up," said Oehen, who met Hofmann and has studied his work.

Hofmann welcomed a decision by Swiss authorities last December to allow LSD to be used in a psychotherapy research project.

"For me, this is a very big wish come true. I always wanted to see LSD get its proper place in medicine," he told Swiss TV at the time.

Hofmann took the drug — purportedly on an occasional basis and out of scientific interest — for several decades.

"LSD can help open your eyes," he once said. "But there are other ways — meditation, dance, music, fasting."

Even so, the self described "father" of LSD readily agreed that the drug was dangerous if in the wrong hands. This was reflected by the title of his 1979 book: "LSD - my problem child."

In it he wrote that, "The history of LSD to date amply demonstrates the catastrophic consequences that can ensue when its profound effect is misjudged and the substance is mistaken for a pleasure drug."

Hofmann retired from Sandoz in 1971 and devoted his time to travel, writing and lectures.

"This is really a high point in my advanced age," Hofmann said at a ceremony in Basel honoring him on his 100th birthday. "You could say it is a consciousness-raising experience without LSD."

Funeral arrangements were not immediately available.

Associated Press writers Balz Bruppacher in Bern, Eliane Engeler in Geneva and Clare Nullis contributed to this report.

- 30 -

(This version CORRECTS Corrects sequence of quotes regarding his two LSD experiences; CLARIFIES that authorities authorized LSD in experimental sted of standard psychotherapy; ADDS comment from psychiatrist.)

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


patfromch said...

Cheese, Chocolate, the Army Knife, Bank Accounts, Neutrality, Direct Democracy, the Red Cross, Multilingualism...and LSD.

I can be proud of what my Country has achieved. this substance has inspired the pop culture from Ken Kesey to the Beatles, Hippies and later the Techno Generation, numerous writers, musicians , film makers etc etc. Some tings would not be the same without it.

(Note: this story was Nr 1 on SF1 Evening News at 1930, covered quite extensively, other Obitiaries, articles and podcasts (i.e. Swissinfo in english) have followed suit in CH)

I also would like to take the time to say a word of thanks for a few nights spent with his invention, chasing a runaway dog, driving home on a bike and later listening to music which will never sound the same. I bow and wish you well on your last trip, Mr Hofmann

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hmmm ... the chocolate ... I think that was the Aztecs (and VANILLA too!), but the Suisse figured out how to make liquid chocolate solid. A remarkable achievement that led directly to the Nestle Crunch Bar and Milk Duds.

He's still travelling, I think. I don't think this Life & Death thing is as Simple as it seems. And it depends on what we mean by Who We Are.

But I think millions and millions of people of the last 60 years happily carry Dr Hofmann around in their hearts and minds. He is hitchhiking into the Future on a huge crowd of Smiles & Gratitude.

He is our Community Inner Tivoli.

And not to be overlooked is the intransigent resistence of mental illness to medicine and science. LSD had -- and I'll bet still has, if you know where to look -- important theraupeutic value for many people. I think it's mostly the police and ignorant government people who banned LSD from medical practice.

It strenghtened friendships, and probably romances, too.

But boy I sure do miss the music of the Acid Years, the power, the vibrancy, the experimentation, the originality, the thrill, the courage.

from Wikipedia:
Bicycle Day

On April 19, 1943 Dr. Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 µg of LSD, which he hypothesized would be a threshold dose, based on other ergot alkaloids. After ingesting the substance Hofmann was struggling to speak intelligibly and asked his laboratory assistant, who knew of the self-experiment, to escort him home on his bicycle, due to the lack of available vehicles during wartime restrictions. On the bicycle ride home, Hofmann's condition became more severe and in his journal he stated that everything in his field of vision wavered and was distorted, as if seen in a curved mirror. Hofmann also stated that while riding on the bicycle, he had the sensation of being stationary, unable to move from where he was, despite the fact that he was moving very rapidly. Once Hofmann arrived safely home, he summoned a doctor and asked his neighbor for milk, believing it may help relieve the symptoms. Hofmann wrote that despite his delirious and bewildered condition, he was able to choose milk as a nonspecific antidote for poisoning.[5] Upon arriving the doctor could find no abnormal physical symptoms other than extremely dilated pupils. After spending several hours terrified that his body had been possessed by a demon, that his next door neighbor was a witch, and that his furniture was threatening him, Dr. Hofmann feared he had become completely insane. In his journal Hofmann said that the doctor saw no reason to prescribe medication and instead sent him to his bed. At this time Hofmann said that the feelings of fear had started to give way to feelings of good fortune and gratitude, and that he was now enjoying the colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind his closed eyes. Hofmann mentions seeing "fantastic images" surging past him, alternating and opening and closing themselves into circles and spirals and finally exploding into colored fountains and then rearranging themselves in a constant flux. Hofmann mentions that during the condition every acoustic perception, such as the sound of a passing automobile, was transformed into optical perceptions. Eventually Hofmann slept and upon awakening the next morning felt refreshed and clearheaded, though somewhat physically tired. He also stated that he had a sensation of well being and renewed life and that his breakfast tasted unusually delicious. Upon walking in his garden he remarked that all of his senses were "vibrating in a condition of highest sensitivity, which then persisted for the entire day".[5]

patfromch said...

Interesting BBC doc on the history, includes footage from US Army experiments like MKULTRA etc etc etc
Part One (both about 40 mins)

Part Two