LSD My Problem Child
8. Meeting with Aldous Huxley
In the mid-1950s, two books by Aldous Huxley appeared, The
Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, dealing with
inebriated states produced by hallucinogenic drugs. The alterations
of sensory perceptions and consciousness, which the author experienced
in a self-experiment with mescaline, are skillfully described
in these books. The mescaline experiment was a visionary experience
for Huxley. He saw objects in a new light; they disclosed their
inherent, deep, timeless existence, which remains hidden from
These two books contained fundamental observations on the essence
of visionary experience and about the significance of this manner
of comprehending the worldin cultural history, in the creation
of myths, in the origin of religions, and in the creative process
out of which works of art arise. Huxley saw the value of hallucinogenic
drugs in that they give people who lack the gift of spontaneous
visionary perception belonging to mystics, saints, and great artists,
the potential to experience this extraordinary state of consciousness,
and thereby to attain insight into the spiritual world of these
great creators. Hallucinogens could lead to a deepened understanding
of religious and mystical content, and to a new and fresh experience
of the great works of art. For Huxley these drugs were keys capable
of opening new doors of perception; chemical keys, in addition
to other proven but laborious " door openers" to the
visionary world like meditation, isolation, and fasting, or like
certain yoga practices.
At the time I already knew the earlier work of this great writer
and thinker, books that meant much to me, like Point Counter
Point, Brave New World, After Many a Summer, Eyeless in Gaza,
and a few others. In The Doors of Perception and Heaven
and Hell, Huxley's newly-published works, I found a meaningful
exposition of the experience induced by hallucinogenic drugs,
and I thereby gained a deepened insight into my own LSD experiments.
I was therefore delighted when I received a telephone call from
Aldous Huxley in the laboratory one morning in August 1961. He
was passing through Zurich with his wife. He invited me and my
wife to lunch in the Hotel Sonnenberg.
A gentleman with a yellow freesia in his buttonhole, a tall and
noble appearance, who exuded kindnessthis is the image I retained
from this first meeting with Aldous Huxley. The table conversation
revolved mainly around the problem of magic drugs. Both Huxley
and his wife, Laura Archera Huxley, had also experimented with
LSD and psilocybin. Huxley would have preferred not to designate
these two substances and mescaline as "drugs," because
in English usage, as also by the way with Droge in German,
that word has a pejorative connotation, and because it was important
to differentiate the hallucinogens from the other drugs, even
linguistically. He believed in the great importance of agents
producing visionary experience in the modern phase of human evolution.
He considered experiments under laboratory conditions to be insignificant,
since in the extraordinarily intensified susceptibility and sensitivity
to external impressions, the surroundings are of decisive importance.
He recommended to my wife, when we spoke of her native place in
the mountains, that she take LSD in an alpine meadow and then
look into the blue cup of a gentian flower, to behold the wonder
As we parted, Aldous Huxley gave me, as a remembrance of this
meeting, a tape recording of his lecture "Visionary Experience,"
which he had delivered the week before at an international congress
on applied psychology in Copenhagen. In this lecture, Aldous Huxley
spoke about the meaning and essence of visionary experience and
compared this type of world view to the verbal and intellectual
comprehension of reality as its essential complement.
In the following year, the newest and last book by Aldous Huxley
appeared, the novel Island. This story, set on the utopian
island Pala, is an attempt to blend the achievements of natural
science and technical civilization with the wisdom of Eastern
thought, to achieve a new culture in which rationalism and mysticism
are fruitfully united. The moksha medicine, a magical drug
prepared from a mushroom, plays a significant role in the life
of the population of Pala (moksha is Sanskrit for "release,"
"liberation"). The drug could be used only in critical
periods of life. The young men on Pala received it in initiation
rites, it is dispensed to the protagonist of the novel during
a life crisis, in the scope of a psychotherapeutic dialogue with
a spiritual friend, and it helps the dying to relinquish the mortal
body, in the transition to another existence.
In our conversation in Zurich, I had already learned from Aldous
Huxley that he would again treat the problem of psychedelic drugs
in his forthcoming novel. Now he sent me a copy of Island,
inscribed "To Dr. Albert Hofmann, the original discoverer
of the moksha medicine, from Aldous Huxley."
The hopes that Aldous Huxley placed in psychedelic drugs as a
means of evoking visionary experience, and the uses of these substances
in everyday life, are subjects of a letter of 29 February 1962,
in which he wrote me:
. . . I have good hopes that this and similar work will result
in the development of a real Natural History of visionary experience,
in all its variations, determined by differences of physique,
temperament and profession, and at the same time of a technique
of Applied Mysticisma technique for helping individuals to
get the most out of their transcendental experience and to make
use of the insights from the "Other World" in the affairs
of "This World." Meister Eckhart wrote that "what
is taken in by contemplation must be given out in love."
Essentially this is what must be developedthe art of giving out
in love and intelligence what is taken in from vision and the
experience of self-transcendence and solidarity with the Universe....
Aldous Huxley and I were together often at the annual convention
of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (WAAS) in Stockholm
during late summer 1963. His suggestions and contributions to
discussions at the sessions of the academy, through their form
and importance, had a great influence on the proceedings.
WAAS had been established in order to allow the most competent
specialists to consider world problems in a forum free of ideological
and religious restrictions and from an international viewpoint
encompassing the whole world. The results: proposals, and thoughts
in the form of appropriate publications, were to be placed at
the disposal of the responsible governments and executive organizations.
The 1963 meeting of WAAS had dealt with the population explosion
and the raw material reserves and food resources of the earth.
The corresponding studies and proposals were collected in Volume
II of WAAS under the title The Population Crisis and the Use
of World Resources. A decade before birth control, environmental
protection, and the energy crisis became catchwords, these world
problems were examined there from the most serious point of view,
and proposals for their solution were made to governments and
responsible organizations. The catastrophic events since that
time in the aforementioned fields makes evident the tragic discrepancy
between recognition, desire, and feasibility.
Aldous Huxley made the proposal, as a continuation and complement
of the theme "World Resources" at the Stockholm convention,
to address the problem "Human Resources," the exploration
and application of capabilities hidden in humans yet unused. A
human race with more highly developed spiritual capacities, with
expanded consciousness of the depth and the incomprehensible wonder
of being, would also have greater understanding of and better
consideration for the biological and material foundations of life
on this earth. Above all, for Western people with their hypertrophied
rationality, the development and expansion of a direct, emotional
experience of reality, unobstructed by words and concepts, would
be of evolutionary significance. Huxley considered psychedelic
drugs to be one means to achieve education in this direction.
The psychiatrist Dr. Humphry Osmond, likewise participating in
the congress, who had created the term psychedelic (mind-expanding),
assisted him with a report about significant possibilities of
the use of hallucinogens.
The convention in Stockholm in 1963 was my last meeting with Aldous
Huxley. His physical appearance was already marked by a severe
illness; his intellectual personage, however, still bore the undiminished
signs of a comprehensive knowledge of the heights and depths of
the inner and outer world of man, which he had displayed with
so much genius, love, goodness, and humor in his literary work.
Aldous Huxley died on 22 November of the same year, on the same
day President Kennedy was assassinated. From Laura Huxley I obtained
a copy of her letter to Julian and Juliette Huxley, in which she
reported to her brother- and sister-in-law about her husband's
last day. The doctors had prepared her for a dramatic end, because
the terminal phase of cancer of the throat, from which Aldous
Huxley suffered, is usually accompanied by convulsions and choking
fits. He died serenely and peacefully, however.
In the morning, when he was already so weak that he could no longer
speak, he had written on a sheet of paper: "LSDtry itintramuscular100
mmg." Mrs. Huxley understood what was meant by this, and
ignoring the misgivings of the attending physician, she gave him,
with her own hand, the desired injection-she let him have the
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