The World Beyond Within: the story of LSD
Een documentaire die beide kanten van de medaille geeft: de fascinerende bewustzijnsverruimende kant en het lichtzinnig en nefast omspringen met deze sterke drug.
Geen speelgoed waar je lichtzinnig mee omspringt maar wel iets waardevols waar je (best met medische begeleiding) een dieper inzicht in het brein mee krijgt.
Deze uitzending is absoluut een must voor iedere geïnteresseerde, rijkelijk geïllustreerd. Boeiend is de protagonisten van deze drug bezig te zien in de jaren 70 en hun reacties op die ervaringen jaren later. Voor velen was het een gebeurtenis van cruciaal belang voor het kijken naar de dingen
Hier het juweeltje*** ( m.m.v. een aantal grote namen uit de geschiedenis van LSD (A. Hofmann, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey e.a. ):
Hierbijgevoegd een transcriptie van een gedeelte van het eerste deel:
THE STORY OF LSD
There is more to reality than meets a normal eye. Behind the curtain of everyday consciousness is hidden another, an utterably strange mental universe.
It's the realm of mystical experience and those who have been there describe the visit as the most significant event of their lives. Until recent times there was a world only known to holy men, to saints and perhaps to the insane. Then generations ago this drug LSD escaped from the laboratory and was consumed by millions of young people. To some it's the doorway to the mystical universe, chemical extasy, enlightment in a bottle. To others it's a dangerous and subversive poison. The drug challenges our very conception of reality and its turbulent history raises sharp questions about the dividing line between private experience and public policy.
"It's extremely good for almost anybody with fixed ideas, with a great certainty about what's what to take this drug..."
"...it's the most dangerous thing we have today..."
The remarkable effects of LSD were discovered by accident in
"The program I was involved in was to study the active principles of medicinal plants. And one of these medicinal plants we were studying was Ergot. Ergot is a fungus that grows on corn. For centuries midwives have used it to stimulate the uterus in childbirth."
At Sandoz, Hoffman was experimenting with ergot , trying to define its effect. On
"At the end of the synthesis I got a very strange psychic situation, a kind of dreamworld appeared, a feeling of oneness with the world, a very strange experience which reminded me to some experience I had in childhood sometimes when I was in nature, in the forest, in the wood, I had, I would say some kind of mystical experience: the feeling of oneness, of being one with nature, the feeling to see now the true aspects of nature, the beauty and it filled me with happiness."
Could it be that this pleasant dreamlike state was in some way connected with the crystals of LSD that Albert Hoffman was purifying that afternoon?. He'd certainly not eaten any, but his fingers might have brushed against a few traces of the compound. If so then LSD was a remarkably potent drug. He decided to experiment on himself:
Being a cautious man, I thought I would start with the smallest, smallest quantity which even it could have any effect, namely I started with 0,25 mg and I had the intention to increase the dosage to see what would happen. But this very small dose, the first dose of my experiments I planned was very, very strong"
Feeling increasingly unwell, Hoffman was obliged to return home, it was wartime, he went by bicycle. As the journey progressed the external world began to look stranger and stranger. By the time he reached home normal reality had desintegrated.
A kind nextdoor neighbour brought milk as an antidote. She too was malignantly transformed. The bizarre and terrifying illusions continued all evening.At times Hoffman thought he was dead and had arrived in hell. But at last 6 hours after taking the drug he felt himself returning to the normal world.
Two days later, now fully recovered, Hoffman reported his discovery to the head of the laboratory. One teaspoon of this new drug LSD could render 50.000 people temporarily insane. "I myself and also, of course, the medical department immediately realized it was a very potent agent which could be used in psychiatry and its research."
Sandoz distributed LSD to psychiatric hospitals as an experimental drug called delycid. Noone really knew what medical use LSD might have but this extraordinary substance deserved further study.
Research soon showed that LSD closely resembles powerful natural chemicals in the brain used to exchange messages between nerve cells. The drug acts like a false signal disrupting the normal flow of information. One specific effect is to disable the region of the brain that filters information arriving from the senses. A flood of signals reaches consciousness and is experienced as an overwhelming deluge of sensation. The impact on a mind is profound.It's as if reality is suddenly uncensored: revealing a world exquisitely or horrificically transformed. All the senses are affected. Colours particularly are brighter and more vivid. Sound too is strangely transformed. Sights are smelled and sounds are seen. Motion becomes a web of frozen moments. And often the world is strewn with bizarre distortions of reality but hallucinations and pretty colours are only part of the story. LSD also affects the subconscious mind.
In the early 1950s psychiatrists began to investigate to this aspect of the drug. all over the world scientific papers appeared reporting the use of LSD in the treatment of psychiatric patients. The leading centre was Poic in
"Most people noticed that the first effects came on after about 20 minutes and somewhere in the first hour they would retire to their particular room which was allocated to them and looked at from the outside, you might think there was nothing going on because LSD doesn't have a multi effect on behaviour. Lots of effects are seen as internal mental processes."
The point of giving patients LSD was to release suppressed memories and mental conflicts that psychoanalysts believe are the rootcause of mental illness. LSD was perhaps a key to unlock the unconscious mind.
"(...) people have a great tendency to laugh and that seems to be a sort of side effect (...) but with our patients there was very often a great deal of fear, a great deal of crying,sobbing and then of course we want to move in and try to get the patient to relate that to that what they are actually experiencing themselves."
Given the reputation LSD has today, it's natural to wonder whether any patients were harmed by the drug.
" We don't believe that anybody had a longterm psychosis. I know cases have been reported from other parts of the world but we examined our conciousness pretty carefully in that respect and I don't believe anybody was permanently damaged."
Extraordinary as it now seems, 1000nds of people were given LSD in psychiatric hospitals during the fifties. According to several independent studies there were surprisingly few bad side effects. And a second group began to experiment with hallucinogenic drugs around this time. They were artists and intellectuals and their inspiration came from the British writer Aldous Huxley. Huxley was fascinated by mystical experience and believed a drug called mescalin might be a means to achieve it. Mescalin is found in a cactus called peyote use by the Indians in
"Thus it came about one bright Maymorning, I swallowed 4/10ths of mescaline dissolved in a glass of water and sat down to wait for the results. After a while I became aware of a slow dance of golden lights, I was looking intently at a small vase of flowers, my eyes travelled from the rose to the carnation, and to the smooth disclose of cynthia and amethist which was the iris. I was seeing what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation. Moment by moment of naked existence. I looked down by chance and went on passionately staring by choice at my own crossed legs, those folds in the trousers, what a lettering of endlessly significant complexity. This is how one ought to see, how things really are. Now someone produced a phonograph and put a recording on the turntable ,the voices were a kind of bridge back to the human world.The uneven phrases of the madrigals pursued their course always sticking to the same key for two bars together and suddenly I had an entry in what it must be like to be mad. I found myself on the brink of panic, desintegrating under pressure of a reality greater than a mind accustomed to the cosy world of symbols but possibly bare. None too soon I began to return to that reassuring but proundly unsatisfactory state known as being in one's right mind. The man comes back through the door in the wall, deliberately quite the same as the man who went out. "
The world he saw that Maymorning in 1953, profoundly impressed Huxley, a name was required for such substance that could provoke such revelatory experience.'To fall in hell or saw angelic, you need a pinch of psychedelic'
"In your book on mescalin recently you talked of a valuable state of heightened perception being induced by drugs, by proper drugs. Do you think the imaginative writers would benefit by that?" "Well I think the people who would benefit most of all are professors, and I think it would be extremely good for almost anybody with fixed ideas and with a great certainty about what's what to take this thing and to realize that the world he has constructed is by no means the only world, that there are these extraordinary other types of universe which we may inhabit and which we'd be very grateful for inhabiting I think."
Not everybody shared Huxley's enthusiasm. The British writer Arthur Koestler responded in an essay with a parable. He likened consumers of psychedelic drugs with those who drive to the top of a mountain instead of climbing it step by step. The view,he concluded, may be identical but the vision of the climber is different from that of the motorist. Such criticisms however only encouraged interest in HUxley's account of his mescalin experiment, and others began to follow in his footsteps:
Well, here I am in my home and before I take the drug a doctor will ask me one or two unrehearsed questions.(..) a state of euphoria / desintegration of the Ego / Consciousness of moving in time / mystical adventure"
Spiritual selftranscendence was hardly the ambition of another group interested in LSD and mescalin in the 1950s: The American government were attracteds to hallucinogenic drugs for less savoury purposes. Former intelligence officer and author John Marx has uncovered the CIA secret research with LSD.
"In the early 1950s the CIA and the American military intelligence were funding the lion's share of the research on LSD. You can give the intelligence agency an awful lot of credit for starting a field of experimentation into these sorts of drugs"
Through the freedom of informationact Marx obtained copies of classified CIA documents that reveal why the agency was interested in LSD:
" The essence of the intelligence business is control. This was a potential instrument for bridging people's control, for making them commit acts against their own will. "
In 1963 the CIA published an internal report, so sensitive only one copy was made. It concerned MK Ultra, a project that involve'd the testing of LSD on unwitting American citizens throughout the 1950s.
"They wanted to know how a diplomat might react if given LSD at a party, how a foreign leader might react if given LSD just before he was to get up and give a speech, how it might be used in interrogation of prisoners or something of that sort.
Given the fact the CIA felt it had to do that kind of testing, they had to find unwitting testparticipants who by definition couldn't be told they were given the drug and so what the CIA did is it looked for people on whose lives they put less value than on the life of an American scientist or businessman or some other of that sort. The CIA turned to people like drugaddicts, prostitutes, prisoners, inmates in mental hospitals and used them as their subjects.
"People who didn't know what had happened believed they became insane and all kinds of accidents happened, following these kinds of injections. That was really a crime: to keep people without the knowledge"
The American military were also experimenting with LSD as a potential weapon. The idea was to spray the drug on enemy troups, but those however proved rather difficult to control, and there was a different kind of fallout from these experiments, one which took the army and the CIA entirely by surprise: civilians exposed to LSD began to do strange things:
"I believe, with the advent of acid we discovered a new way to think and it had to do with piercing together new thoughts in your mind that produced people like Bob Dylan and John Lennon and W.S. Burroughs. They were using new images together in a way that jarred the mind and produced images that were latent in our consciousness but were not being brought about by reading Vanity Fair or Women's own Companion."
In 1960 the CIA were paying students 40 dollars a day to take LSD. One volunteer was Ken Kesey, psychedelic folkhero, author of 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest' and today a farmer in
"You were in a little room, pretty much by yourself. There was a window with wired grating on it and through that window you could look out and see a lot of people out there who understood a whole lot more what you're going through than these doctors. And my metaphor for the thing was it's as though these people had discovered a room and they thought there was something there in that room, a value to them, but they didn't want to go in there, so they hired students to go in there, and after a number of students came out with a wild look in their eye they said 'close up that room and don't let anybody else go back in that room', and that's when I found that my key fits the doctor's office and decided that this was too important a business to leave in the hands of the government."
Caught by the power of that drug, Kesey began to distribute it to his friends. Across America LSD was leaking out of the laboratory.
"I've always thought this was one of the things that proved that God had a sense of humour, that if Gabriel came up and says:'Hey chief, the Americans are really messed up down there we've got to do something to straighten them out down there.' and God says:' Well send them some of that stuff you've been working on, that acid-stuff and have the CIA distribute it!' You can hear the celestial laughter when you imagine that it really was the CIA that turned on
In the early 1960s , 20 years after Albert Hoffman bicycled unsteadily home from the laboratory his discovery was poised to kindle a revolution among the young of the West. For the father of LSD it was an alarming prospect:
"I knew from the use of these kind of substances in old cultures like the Indians, there are a couple of substances they only used in a religious setting and they are in the hands of the sjaman, not in the public. And that sjaman in our society is the psychiatrist, and it should remain in the hands of the sjaman, and therefore I immediately became sceptical and anxious that this thing could happen and it happened indeed by unwise and uncontrolled use of the substance."
LSD geen katje zonder handschoenen aan te pakken, vandaar hier een handboek (uit ’59) “Handbook for the therapeuthic use of Lysergic acid Diethylamide-25 individual and group procedures “ Het handboek bevat zelfs de vragen die men best tijdens de sessie stelt. Wezenlijke vragen die eenieder zich moet stellen dunkt me, en liefst vaak,ook zonder LSD. Leven moet een bewust proces zijn, daarin is het dat we ons onderscheiden van robotica.
Het boek als pdf: http://www.maps.org/ritesofpassage/lsdhandbook.pdf