It was announced earlier today that Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD-25 in 1943, has passed away at his home in Switzerland. It seems fitting that he left the planet fairly close to the celebration of "Bike Day" (named for April 19, 1943--the first recorded acid trip in history. Hofmann ingested 250 mg of LSD and when the drug began to affect him, he left the Sandoz laboratory where he worked and pedalled his bike home, experiencing the peak effects on the way).
I posted in January, on Hofmann's 102nd birthday. It seemed amazing then and still seems incredible. He out-lived a lot of the politicians who helped to outlaw his discovery...and even a lot of it's early advocates. His impact on "the 60s" remains undeniable, though he was dismayed with a lot of the rampant experimentalism with LSD. I suspect he was just as woeful, if not horrified, by governement "intelligence" agencies--especially the C.I.A., trying to use the drug as a truth serum, or worse yet, as a mind-control device. Luckily, acid seems to affect individuals in a different way with every dose--so those programs were cancelled eventually. The biggest side effect was a lot of 'psychedelic spooks' running around Langley, dreaming up wacky schemes for the spy game--most of which were (hopefully) never funded. Unfortunately, on the other end of the cultural spectrum, but with a chillingly similar aim--Charles Manson reportedly used LSD and other psychedelics to cement his "family" bond together with the runaways who stayed with him, leading to the 1969 "Helter Skelter" murders.
The man himself recounts his own encounters with psychedelics (he also synthesized psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in hallucinogenic mushrooms) in his book, LSD, My Problem Child. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the study of conciousness and brain-change. He was a thoughtful, remarkable and enthusiastic supporter of research into the use of these compounds for therapeutic aims.
Hofmann was never able to see his discovery being scientifically researched as much as it had been in the 1950s and early 60s and that seems to be one of the great failings of the counter-culture. The mass panics of the late 60s and early 70s shut down any chance of legitimate research and as supplies of the pure ingredients needed to manufacture the compounds dwindled, underground chemists substituted less 'clean' substances in the street acid they made. This may have led to a lot more bad trips as time went on. Research has picked up in the past few years, but with MDMA and 'softer' psychedelics, LSD still seems to be taboo. Someday, scientists may pick up where Uncle Albert left off--'till then, we can still celebrate his contribution to The Tale Of The Tribe.
Rest in Peace, Dr. Hofmann!
A painting of Dr. Albert Hofmann by Alex Grey. Grey explains the painting:
'In my portrait of Dr. Hofmann, the eye of transcendental spirit in the upper left hand corner of the painting releases spiralic streams of primordial rainbow spheres of potential, one of which becomes a compassionate alchemical angel, whose tears drip down to anoint or 'create' the LSD molecule that the doctor holds in his hands, and a demon, here identified with Nazi power tugs or pushes at it. LSD opens a visionary gateway to the heart, as shown by the spiral of fractally infinitizing eyes resembling the stripey eye-spheres of the molecule, swirling into the center of the chest. On St. Albert's shoulder blade is a portrait of Paracelsus, the Alchemist of Basel, 500 years ago, who is credited with founding modern Chemistry, yet his alchemical goal was to discover the Philosopher's Stone. Alchemy was the art and science of the transmutation of the elements, like turning lead into gold and the identification of the soul of the alchemist with the chemical transformations as a metaphor of their journey ti enlightenment. Modern Chemistry took the psyche and mystery out of the material weighed and measured world, reducing the world to a heap of atoms. LSD brought psyche back, front and center to the chemical material world. That is partly why I believe that LSD is the Philosopher's Stone, the discovery of which, also in the town of Basel, is the result of an alchemical process put in motion by the great Paracelsus. In the portrait, I painted a lot of LSD personalities and symbolism in the aura of Dr. Hofmann. Some of these people were Dr Hofmann's friends, like Aldous Huxley, Gordon Wasson, Maria Sabina and Richard Evans Schultes. Each of these people had a special connection to psychedelics. Huxley wrote fearlessly about the psychedelic experience in The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, which also talks about Visionary states and works of art.'