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
mycologistswhom 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
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 original
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
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
restaurantimpressive 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 personthus
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 the matter.
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 youn 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 office under strict confinementno
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
Yorkyou 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 hospital there.
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
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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