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Numerous accounts of the discovery of LSD have been published in English;
none, unfortunately, have been completely accurate. Here, at last, the father
of LSD details the history of his "problem child" and his long and fruitful
career as a research chemist. In a real sense, this book is the inside story
of the birth of the Psychedelic Age, and it cannot be denied that we have
Surpassing its historical value is the immense philosophical import of this
work. Never before has a chemist, an expert in the most materialistic of the
sciences, advanced a Weltanschauung of such a mystical and transcendental
nature. LSD, psilocybin, and the other hallucinogens do indeed, as Albert
Hofmann asserts, constitute "cracks" in the edifice of materialistic
rationality, cracks we would do well to explore and perhaps widen.
As a writer, it gives me great satisfaction to know that by this book the
American reader interested in hallucinogens will be introduced to the work of
Rudolf Gelpke, Ernst Junger, and Walter Vogt, writers who are all but unknown
here. With the notable exceptions of Huxley and Wasson, English and American
writers on the hallucinogenic experience have been far less distinguished and
eloquent than they.
This translation has been carefully overseen by Albert Hofmann, which made my
task both simpler and more enjoyable. I am beholden to R. Gordon Wasson for
checking the chapters on LSD's "Mexican relatives" and on "Ska Maria Pastora"
for accuracy and style.
Two chapters of this book - "How LSD Originated" and "LSD Experience and
Reality" - were presented by Albert Hofmann as apaperbefore the international
conference "Hallucinogens, Shamanism and Modern Life" in San Francisco on the
afternoon of Saturday, September 30, 1978. As a part of the conference
proceedings, the first chapter has been published in the Journal of
Psychedetic Drugs, Vol. 11 (1-2), 1979.
There are experiences that most of us are hesitant to speak about, because
they do not conform to everyday reality and defy rational explanation. These
are not particular external occurrences, but rather events of our inner
which are generally dismissed as figments of the imagination and barred from our memory. Suddenly, the familiar view of our surroundings is transformed in a strange, delightful, or alarming way: it appears to us in a new light,
One enchantment of that kind, which I experienced in childhood, has remained
remarkably vivid in my memory ever since. It happened on a May morning - I
have forgotten the year - but I can still point to the exact spot where it
occurred, on a forest path on Martinsberg above Baden, Switzerland. As I
strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up
Was this something I had simply failed to notice before? Was I suddenly
discovering the spring forest as it actually looked? It shone with the most
beautiful radiance, speaking to the heart, as though it wanted to encompass
I have no idea how long I stood there spellbound. But I recall the anxious
concern I felt as the radiance slowly dissolved and I hiked on: how could a
vision that was so real and convincing, so directly and deeply felt - how
could it end so soon? And how could I tell anyone about it, as my overflowing
joy compelled me to do, since I knew there were no words to describe what I
had seen? It seemed strange that I, as a child, had seen something so
marvelous, something that adults obviously did not perceive - for I had never
heard them mention it.
While still a child, I experienced several more of these deeply euphoric moments on my rambles through forest and meadow. It was these experiences that
able to communicate these experiences; whether I would have the chance to
depict my visions in poetry or paintings. But knowing that I was not cut out
to be a poet or artist, I assumed I would have to keep these experiences to
myself, important as they were to me.
substances, which under certain conditions can evoke visionary states similar
to the spontaneous experiences just described. The most important of these
hallucinogenic substances has come to be known as LSD. Hallucinogens, as
active compounds of considerable scientific interest, have gained entry into
medicinal research, biology, and psychiatry, and later - especially LSD also
obtained wide diffusion in the drug culture.
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