Bicycle Day 2020 and the Lessons Learned from LSD

Bicycle Day 2020 and the Lessons Learned from LSD

Image credit: Illustration of Albert Hofmann by Jakob Krattiger, 2004

Excerpt From: Dieter Hagenbach, Lucius Werthmüller. “Mystic Chemist”. Apple Books.

Bicycle Day 2020: An Interview with Lucius Werthmüller, Co-Author of Mystic Chemist 

The celebration of ‘Bicycle Day’ commemorates the day that Swiss chemist and discoverer of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Albert Hofmann, first intentionally ingested LSD in a self-experiment conducted in order to ascertain its effects. On April 19, 1943, Hofmann ingested 250 micrograms of the substance, believing it to be a threshold dose of the drug (he later discovered the threshold dose was a mere 20 micrograms). About an hour after ingesting the drug, Hofmann began to feel its effects take hold, asking his laboratory assistant to escort him home that evening. However, due to wartime restrictions, cars were prohibited; they had to travel home by bicycle.

In honour of Bicycle Day 2020, we interviewed Lucius Werthmüller, co-author of Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD and personal friend of Albert’s to gain a deeper perspective on Albert’s personal relationship to LSD, and the lessons he learned about it over the years.

To help you celebrate Hofmann’s discovery,  we are offering 50% off
Mystic Chemist, the definitive biography on Albert Hofmann
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Jasmine Virdi: How did you first meet Albert Hofmann?

Lucius Werthmüller: I met him when I was a child as he was a dear friend of my parents. To me, he was just another visitor at our house so I didn’t think he was particularly interesting at the time. At the age of 15, I had my first LSD

Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann showcasing the molecular structure of LSD

experience, and only later I learned that this friend of my parents was the discoverer of LSD, and that fact obviously made him much more interesting to me. We were often guests at Albert and [his wife] Anita’s home where we had barbecues, and harvested cherries yearly to make homemade schnapps. Later, we came to  develop our own relationship aside from the one we had through my parents. Becoming friends, we often  met, discussing matters of parapsychology, and life after death, especially in his last years leading up to his one-hundredth birthday. He was often asked by the journalists: “What do you think, will there be a life after death?” And he usually would say, “No I don’t believe in a life after death…” and after a short pause, he added, “I know that there is life after death.” 

Bicycle Day wasn’t the first time that Hofmann had tried LSD ? It was the first time intentionally, but before that, he had accidentally dosed himself.

Yes, that was on the 16th of April 1943. Before that, he reflected that this molecule [lysergic acid diethylamide] would not leave his mind. He first synthesized it during November 1938 for pharmacological research, but the chemical was not of interest, and so it was put away. However, it stayed ever present in his mind, and thinking there must be something special about it, he decided to synthesize it again five years later. When he re-synthesized it, he experienced a mildly intoxicating effect, and was unable to imagine how it had happened as he was a rigorous chemist, following strict safety protocols. His only explanation was that he must have absorbed it transdermally. This initial experience made him decide to intentionally ingest LSD three days later. 

Around the age of eight, Albert began having deep mystical experiences in nature. He describes that, from one step to another, he fell into a completely different state of mind, whereby he felt united with all of nature, feeling the miracle of nature in its full glory. From that experience, he decided that he wanted to study nature further, eventually becoming a chemist. He said that, by some kind of coincidence, these strange mystical experiences that led him to be an organic chemist led him to discover a substance that can also promote these mystical experiences.

After his initial revelatory experience which was described to be both “blissful” and “terrifying” what made him decide to go back for more?

It was terrifying for him because he genuinely believed that he was on the verge of death. If you don’t know what to expect or what is happening to you, LSD can be truly terrifying. When he was cycling home he entertained the idea that he was being poisoned by the drug, and so upon arriving home he called his doctor. When the doctor told him that everything was normal, all body functions were working properly, he could finally begin to relax, and enjoy the experience, realizing LSD’s tremendous potential to unlock the realms of the unconscious. 

What did Albert perceive the function of LSD to be? 

He saw it as a tool for making psychotherapy much more profound, to access the unconscious more easily, and he was quite sure from the beginning that it could help transform psychiatry, psychotherapy, and also our model of consciousness. 

LSD blotter art, Albert Hofmann, The Father of LSD

When was it that he started referring to LSD as his “problem child”? 

That was in the 60s. During the 1950s, LSD was the subject of study for hundreds of research programs all over the world, however, the drug was contained within the scientific community. He could’ve never imagined that LSD was to become a drug on the streets, being taken at parties as he had a  deep respect for it, believing that one must be very careful when ingesting it. Subsequently, he was put into contact with Timothy Leary, who was doing research at Harvard at the time, by Aldous Huxley. Initially Albert and Tim had quite an interesting correspondence, but after Leary was kicked out of Harvard and became a target in the media, Albert took his distance. He didn’t want to have LSD on the streets, and he couldn’t understand why the hippies took it in such high doses. 

Then, he began to have problems in his workplace. In 1962, some members of the Nobel Prize Committee had come from Stockholm to visit him, and it was almost certain that he would receive the Nobel Prize for chemistry, but that was the time when everything was becoming more and more scandalous with Timothy Leary in the media, leading Albert to start considering LSD as his “problem child.”

He also always said that a “problem child is not a child that creates problems, rather it is a child that has an enormous potential.” The German term “das Sorgenkind” cannot be adequately translated into English, meaning a child that you have to take special care of. Despite this, Albert was always convinced that LSD would never disappear from this world, and would continue to play an important role in the research of consciousness. 

What would he think of the psychedelic renaissance as it exists today? 

As long as he worked in the company [Sandoz], he was quite a conservative man, keeping his distance from the counterculture, but the older he became, the more open he was to LSD use that went beyond therapy. He compared it often to the Eleusinian mysteries, and he hoped that it would become a tool for initiation. In 2007, one year after our big conference and one year before he died, LSD research was once again permissible in Switzerland, and this made him incredibly happy. He didn’t want it to be misused by the youth as he truly felt it was something to be approached with reverence. However, by the end of his life, he was open to the idea of it being used outside of medical settings by those who approached it responsibly. His contact with writers and artists from all over the world convinced him that it can play an important role outside of medical contexts, and he was more and more happy that people took it. He would love the psychedelic renaissance today!

LSD was the first psychoactive substance that Albert synthesized, but it was not the only one. What were the others? Psilocybin, and psilocin?

Yes psilocybin, and he was also taking samples of Salvia divinorum when he was with Gordon Wasson in Mexico. The two had a journey to Mexico after Albert had first synthesized psilocybin to give it to Maria Sabina, the famed Mexican curandera who had first led Gordon Wasson on a mushroom ceremony. Wasson, on his first trip, had taken back some samples of salvia, but Albert was not able to find the active component. What was important for Albert was to look for the active component in these morning glory seeds ololiuqui that were used also as a sacrament in shamanic ceremonies in Mexico. 

He was deeply thrilled when he found out that there was also lysergic acid in these morning glory seeds. Apart from the psychoactive chemicals, he synthesized many medications, some of which are still in use. What he loved the most was methergine, a chemical that makes birthing easier for women. Speaking of his two favourite substances, he said “methergine makes physical birth easier, and the LSD makes spiritual birth easier.” These ergot alkaloids were used in medieval times by midwives to make the birthing process easier. For him, psilocybin wasn’t that interesting. The thing he wanted on his tombstone was “Albert Hofmann, discoverer of LSD.” 

Do you think that the messages that can be learned from LSD and other psychedelics can be helpful now in light of the coronavirus crisis? 

I don’t know how helpful it can be in this specific crisis, but one of the most important things about LSD is that it can reconnect people with the living creation, with nature. Albert’s biggest gripe with the modern world was our alienation from nature. He was unable to comprehend how people are seduced by materialism, turning a blind eye to the miracle of nature. I think that is what it really can do now to help us is to connect us with the living creation and the wonders of nature. Albert wrote up a summary of his life that he wanted to have read at his funeral ceremony which perfectly summarized how he saw LSD contributing to a better future: 

“Nature, the creation, was described by Paracelcus as the book written by the finger of God. In my life, I was fortunate to have this profoundly uplifting and comforting experience. To whomever understands how to read this book, not only with scientific curiosity but with wondering, loving eyes, will be revealed a deeper, more marvellous reality in which we are all secure, and forever united.”

Photo credit: Albert Hofmann in the Dordogne, France, 1990 by François Lagarde

Mystic Chemist: The Life of Albert Hofmann and His Discovery of LSD

Mystic Chemist By Dieter Hagenbach & Lucius Werthmüller

Mystic Chemist is the authoritative biography on arguably the most famous chemist of the 20th century. Authors Hagenbach and Werthmüller, close friends of Hofmann, take us on a journey through the 20th century from his mystical childhood experiences with nature; to his chemistry studies with Nobel Prize winner Paul Karrer in Zurich through his discoveries of both LSD and psilocybin at Sandoz; to his adventurous expeditions and his many years of retirement devoted to philosophy of nature and a rich social life. The authors also reveal a thorough and eventful history of the impact that LSD had on culture and the ensuing struggles between its advocates and opponents, many of which persist today.

Save 50% from now until April 16th with the coupon code: BICYCLE2020

Synergetic Symposium and Salon: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

Synergetic Symposium and Salon: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch

We are delighted to announce a one-of-a-kind event exploring and celebrating the convergence of psychedelic studies and Buddhism with the launch of The Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley. Hosted by our publisher, Deborah Parrish Snyder, and associate publisher, Michael Gosney at the beautiful Haight Street Art Center in San Francisco on 18th October 2019. 

The evening’s experiences include:

The evening’s experiences include:

• Mantra Meditation led by Mike Crowley

• Panel Discussion: Buddhism and Psychedelics
Erik Davis – (Psychedelic Sangha, moderator)
Allan Badiner – author, Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics
David Presti – Prof. of Neurobiology, UC Berkeley
Mariavittoria Mangini, PhD, FNP – CIIS Psychedlic-Assisted Therapy program

• Mike Crowley presentation and book signing

• Musical Offerings
Sound Temple with Stephen Kent and Jeffrey Alphonsos Mooney

Deep Jam with Mike Crowley and emergent players

Divasonic – live electronic set

DJ Goz – closing grooves

• Exhibitors:
Psychedelic Society of San Francisco
SF Dharma Collective
MAPS

• Visionary Art by Phaneros Gallery

• Cash bar (by donation) – wine and beer

When & Where? 

The Synergetic Salon and Symposium: Secret Drugs of Buddhism Book Launch will take place on Friday, 18th October at San Francisco’s Haight Street Art Center, with doors opening at 7:00 pm. 

Buy Tickets Here  

Buddhism & Psychedelics Panelists Include: 

Erik DavisErik Davis Ph.D. is an author, podcaster, award-winning journalist, and popular speaker based in San Francisco. He is the author of TechGnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information, a cult classic of visionary media studies. He has contributed chapters on art, music, technoculture, and contemporary spirituality to over a dozen books, including Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. His latest book, High Weirdness, explores the new counterculture of drugs, esoterica and visionary experience that emerged in the 1970s. He is also co-founder of Psychedelic Sangha, organizing the San Francisco Sangha. 

Allan BadinerAllan Badiner is a contributing editor at Tricycle magazine, and the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. He also edited the books, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology, and Mindfulness in the Marketplace, and his written work appears in other books including Dharma Family Treasures, Meeting the Buddha, Ecological Responsibility: A Dialogue with Buddhism, and The Buddha and the Terrorist. Allan holds an MA from the College of Buddhist Studies in LA and serves on the boards of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation, and Project CBD. He has been a student of Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for more than 25 years.

David Presti Ph.D. is a neurobiologist, psychologist, and cognitive scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1991. Between 1990 and 2000, he worked as a clinical psychologist in the treatment of addiction and of post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD) at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco. Since 2004, He has been teaching neuroscience to Tibetan monks and nuns in India, Bhutan, and Nepal, part of a contemporary dialogue between science and spirituality initiated by the Dalai Lama. His areas of expertise include human neurobiology and neurochemistry, the effects of drugs on the brain and the mind, the clinical treatment of addiction, and the scientific study of mind and consciousness.

Maria ManginiMariavittoria Mangini Ph.D., FNP is a member of faculty at California Institute of Integral Studies Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy Program. Her academic interest has been the historiography of psychedelics and she has written extensively on the impact of psychedelic experiences in shaping the lives of her contemporaries. She has worked closely with many of the most distinguished investigators in this field. Her current project is the development of a Thanatology Program for the study of death and dying.

Secret Drugs of Buddhism Pre-Order Discount

Did the Buddhists of the ancient world make use of shamanic plants and psychedelic sacraments in their sacred rituals? This is the broad topic that Buddhist lama and author, Michael Crowley, attempts to unfurl in his book Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayāna. Crowley’s book is the culmination of over forty years of research exploring the extensive historical evidence for the use of entheogenic plants within the Buddhist tradition. Learn more about the Secret Drugs of Buddhism.

To further celebrate the release of this exciting book, we are currently offering a 40% discount on all pre-order purchases of Secret Drugs of Buddhism.

Pre-order Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Evan Hirsch Interview with Mike Crowley at Psychedelic Science 2017

“There is no fluff, it is just solid information. The reason that someone might want to read it [Secret Drugs of Buddhism] is that it legitimises the use of psychedelics in a sane and responsible manner for spiritual progress. It shows that for hundreds of years that were used perfectly well, perfectly safely in this manner when used with great respect and used in a spiritual context.” —Mike Crowley

More About the Author, Michael Crowley 

Mike Crowley - The authorMichael Crowley was born on February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.

Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley

Secret Drugs of Buddhism by Mike Crowley

Delving into the Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Did the Buddhists of the ancient world make use of shamanic plants and psychedelic sacraments in their sacred rituals? This is the broad topic that Buddhist lama and author, Michael Crowley, attempts to unfurl in his book Secret Drugs of Buddhism: Psychedelic Sacraments and the Origins of the Vajrayāna. Crowley’s book is the culmination of over forty years of research exploring the extensive historical evidence for the use of entheogenic plants within the Buddhist tradition.

It is often supposed that Buddhism is and has always been ‘drug-free’, and is rather something that is practiced entirely by one’s own efforts. This view of Buddhism can be thought to stem from the fact that Buddhism has largely taken root in global consciousness through the work of the exiled Tibetan leader and Buddhist teacher, H. H. The Dalai Lama. Nowadays, there is a common misconception that the Buddhism practiced in Tibet is representative of all Buddhism and that it is the default, normative version of Buddhist practice.  

However, the book focuses on an earlier form of Buddhism, known as Vajrayāna Buddhism. The Vajrayāna movement of Buddhism began in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. The scriptures of the Vajrayāna continually make reference to a sacrament called amrita, the term for ‘immortality’ in Sanskrit. The term amrita is significantly older than the Vajrayāna and was used within the ancient Indian scripture, the Rig Veda, (composed c. 2000 BC) as a synonym for soma, the divine intoxicant.

A Closer Look at the Vajrayāna

Drawing on scriptural sources, botany, pharmacology, and religious iconography, the book calls attention to the central role which psychedelics have played in Indian religions. It traces their history from the mysterious soma, venerated in the ancient Hindu scriptures, to amrita, the sacramental drink of the  Vajrayāna. Although the amrita used in modern Vajrayāna ceremonies lacks any psychoactivity, there is copious evidence that the amrita used by the earliest Vajrayāna practitioners was a potent entheogen.

A glance at the titles of Vajrayāna scriptures will find the word amrita again and again. Many Vajrayāna deities have amrita as part of their name and a liquid called amrita is frequently visualized in Vajrayāna meditations. Almost all the early teachers of the Vajrayāna are depicted holding skull-cups of amrita. Two “skull-cups” of amrita adorn Vajrayāna altars and a drink called amrita is consumed at all major Vajrayāna rituals. Hundreds of Vajrayāna deities are said to carry amrita in some form, whether in a skull-cup, vase, flask or bowl.

Consider, for example, the prominent meditation-deity Hevajra. He is usually described and depicted as having sixteen arms with every hand holding a skull-cup filled with amrita and in one of his several variants he and his tantric consort arise out of the amrita itself.

And yet, despite multiple references in Vajrayāna literature and near-ubiquitous depictions in Vajrayāna art, you may be forgiven for never having heard of amrita before. If you are, as I am myself, a practicing Vajrayānist, then you may have performed the Vajrasattva purification practice in which the body is (mentally) filled with amrita. But the actual nature of amrita, its origin and history, are rarely discussed, if at all. In fact, even a standard textbook which provides a detailed account of Vajrayāna Buddhism as practiced in India and Tibet has managed to overlook it entirely.

2nd Edition of Secret Drugs Coming Out Fall 2019

We are excited to announce that this upcoming Fall 2019 we are scheduled to publish the 2nd edition of Secret Drugs of Buddhism. Don’t miss out on our pre-order discount, and order your copy with us now!

Pre-order Secret Drugs of Buddhism

Interview on Adventures Through the Mind Podcast 

Learn more about Secret Drugs of Buddhism through this fascinating podcast interview with James W. Jesso, 2016. In this episode, Michael unpacks symbolism within the Vajrayāna tradition, examining the vast history of Buddhism, and retells the story of how the book came to be!


Upcoming Author Events

June 21st, 7:30-9:00 PM, An introductory explanation of Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayāna @ SF Dharma Collective

3 classes: Friday, June 21, July 5th, and August 2nd. The talks provide a basic outline for understanding the different philosophies, meditations, and practices of the three vehicles, as well as their historical context. Each of the three sessions will include a meditation session appropriate to the vehicle under discussion.

Want to know more? Check out the SF Dharma Collective’s Calendar.


More About Michael Crowley 

Michael Crowley was born February 26th, 1948 in Cardiff, Wales. He began studying Buddhism with a Tibetan lama in 1966, becoming an upasaka of the Kagyud lineage in 1970. In order to augment his Buddhist studies, he acquainted himself with Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mandarin Chinese. Mike has lectured at the Museum of Asia and the Pacific, Warsaw, the Jagiellonian University, Cracow, the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has been published in Fortean Times, Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness, and Culture, Psychedelic American, and Psychedelic Press UK. In January 2016, Mike received the R. Gordon Wasson Award for outstanding contributions to the field of entheobotany. He currently serves on the advisory board of the Psychedelic Sangha, a group of psychedelically-inclined Buddhists, based in New York and he teaches at the Dharma Collective in San Francisco.


Praise for Secret Drugs of Buddhism 

Mike Crowley has manifested a delightful book on a topic rarely spoken of, and certainly never explored with such depth. With a combination of personal anecdotes, detailed historical research, and a large collection of traditional art, this book will encourage modern-day Buddhist yogis and mind-explorers to see their practice and its roots in a new way.  —Rev. Kokyo Henkel, Head Teacher, Santa Cruz Zen Center

Writing clearly, in the fashion of an investigative reporter, Mike Crowley unlocks the mystery of amrita, and answers, with previously unseen certainty, the question of whether or not psychedelics were part of historical Buddhist practice. Allan Badiner, Co-editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

Psychedelic drugs in ancient Buddhism? Believe it. Don’t believe it? Read this book. —Clark Heinrich, Author of Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs with Dennis McKenna

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs with Dennis McKenna

Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs eBook Newly Available

For those who like to save paper, keep things minimal, or merely have their research library on easy tabs, we are excited to announce that the Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs (ESDP50) Volume 2: Proceedings of the 2017 conference held in Tyringham Hall, UK, is now available in eBook format!

 

McKenna’s Milestone Publication

The milestone publication, ESPD50, emerged as the brainchild of Dennis McKenna. McKenna, having attained a copy of the original publication from the 1967 conference, found himself inspired to shape his career in light of the book, delving into a lifelong investigation of the pharmacology of traditional medicinal plants.

“The realization that real science was being pursued in this field was a revelation to me, partly because it opened the possibility that one day I, too, might be able to achieve a place in this exclusive fellowship. At first, I thought I would be able to prove to my parents that I was serious about psychedelics and not just a confused hippie in search of cheap thrills, but they were not very reassured. However, over the years, they came to recognize the merits of my chosen career.”Dennis McKenna, The Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs: Reflections on a Book that Changed My Life.’

The first international gathering of researchers held on this subject was in 1967. It was an interdisciplinary group of specialists gathered in one place to share their findings on a topic that was gaining widespread interest: The use of psychoactive plants in indigenous societies. It was intended that follow-up conferences should be held about every 10 years. However, the War on Drugs soon limited any advances in this field of research, putting a prohibitive ban on psychoactive drugs, denying their medicinal value altogether.

 

The Future of Medicine

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of research into the medicinal and therapeutic properties of psychoactive substances. In spite of their prohibitive ban, researchers persevered. With their substantial discoveries and findings helping to reverse public opinion and reestablish the medical legitimacy of certain substances.

In June 2017, a group of interdisciplinary researchers from around the world convened to review their research and findings together in what was known as the second Ethnopharmacologic Search for Psychoactive Drugs Symposium. The papers given at the 2017 Symposium, organized by Dr. Dennis McKenna, have been collected and curated into what is now known as the ESPD50, representing the most significant body of knowledge in this field available.

 

McKenna Speaks at ESPD50 Conference

 

 

Interested in ESPD50, but find the science hard to digest? Make your reading interactive by watching the video lectures of individual authors presenting their research papers at the 2017 Symposium here

Check out Dennis McKenna’s recent interview on the Future Fossils Podcast with Michael Garfield, where they discuss the applications of psychoactive substances as tools for scientific investigation.

What Reviewers Had to Say:

For decades, the keepers of the psychedelic therapy and ethnobotany flames have guarded and passed along rare copies of the published proceedings of this January 28–30, 1967 conference at UC San Francisco, which were released later that year as “Public Health Service Publication No. 1645” and briefly sold for $4 by the U.S. Government Printing Office.

This month, the historic research papers from that mostly forgotten conference, along with the proceedings of a symposium held in England last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco gathering, have been published by Synergetic Press in a beautifully boxed, two-volume hardcover edition. 

Don Lattin, award-winning journalist & author of Changing Our Minds: Psychedelic Sacraments and the New Psychotherapy

Much of their discussion centers around the indigenous peoples of the world who have utilized these miraculous psychedelic fungi and plants (even the skin secretions of frogs and toads) in their cultures and religions. Of course, what’s most exciting is the potential for additional therapeutic discoveries, once the substances are better understood. 

Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews

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