Jump to content
The Education Forum

Psychedelic Revolution Launched by CIA - New Evidence

Recommended Posts


"Pronksters"??? Was that some kind of prank?

--Tommy :)

P.S. Any evidence LHO dropped acid?

Typing a little too fast...

Not Lee, but Harvey looked like a real partier... :peace

let me ask YOU... is there any "authenticated" EVIDENCE that LHO actually did ANYTHING ? :blink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...




A Book Review of David Black's Acid: A New Secret History of LSD


Dark Sorcerer sez:

Weirdness reaches proportions usually only ascribed to bacterial life: just when we think we've discovered the extremes in which it resides, marine biologists manage to find one that lives three miles below the sea or in an active volcano.

So it is with the scope and meaning of history. Perhaps someone out there recalls the first time when it started to "click" that there was a lot more to history than the mere recitation of facts and names. Most people go through life thinking that wars are just the inevitable result of "people hating each other", and that events happen more or less at random. If they dig a little deeper, they might find themselves reading a little Marx or Chomsky and resonating with the idea that history is explainable by the dynamics of capitalism or a cabal of shadowy power figures.

This is a step in the right direction, but the truth is that there is a "subterranean" dimension to history that escapes even the most assiduous critical analysis. "Subterranean" activity is not the manipulation of world affairs by secret societies and the like, although such groups do exist: rather, "subterranean" activity is thought of as activity that occurs on an occult plane outside of the confines of normal three-dimensional reality. Seen in this light, events are not explainable solely by simple "external" causes and happenstance, but are also pieces of a larger puzzle.

Robert Anton Wilson coined this overarching pattern of events "Synchronet". In the words of one author:

Here we see the roots of psychic association, meaning, and synchronicity, as well as schizophrenia, paranoia, and conspiracy theory. Wilson coined the term SynchroNet to describe the web of interconnections glimpsed by the mystic and ourselves when we experience oneness and/or synchronicity. For a brief moment we are reconnected to the OverMind, the implicate order, the holographic cosmic organism, the noosphere, totality reality. But only for an instant. Those who dwell there, whether by choice or not, are described as shaman or schizophrenic, depending upon which society they live within.

Cue David Black's Acid: The Secret History of LSD. Those still under the impression that history is little more than the sum total of visible events will greet Black's book with incredulity: the synchronistic connections described in just one paragraph can amaze:

"For laundering, [bill] Hitchcock used the facilities offered by the fiscal paradise of the Bahamas, where he already had a private account at the Castle Bank and Trust. This laundromat [Castle Bank and Trust] for Mafia narcotics trafficking had been co-founded by Edward Halliwell, a CIA asset involved in Air America and Civil Air Transport. These 'airlines' were agency front companies for flying heroin around the Burma Triangle to bankroll covert operations in Indo-China. He made arrangements for the Brotherhood [of Eternal Love, the Californian LSD manufacturing/trafficking organization described in Tendler and May's book of the same name] at Resorts International, a conduit for huge amounts of Mafia money, and at the Fiduciary Trust Company, an offshoot of Investors Overseas Services, headed by the notorious and crooked financier Bernie Cornfeld." (p. 18)

And what about Bernie Cornfeld? Nothing less than sugar daddy to Heidi Fleiss: you can quickly see how this nebulous web of synchronicity starts to add up.

The implications present in Black's book reach to the highest echelons of political power: not only does Black detail the complete history of the CIA's experimentation with LSD in its covert MK-ULTRA project, but we learn that John F. Kennedy's implied mistress, Mary Pinchot, was "turning on" a lot of higher-ups in Washington, D.c. with LSD supplied by Timothy Leary. When Kennedy was assassinated, Pinchot allegedly phoned Leary in a panicked state and said, 'they couldn't control him anymore. He was changing too fast... They've covered everything up." (p. 61). In October 1964, Pinchot was shot to death in a Georgetown apartment in what appeared to be a "professional hit."

The linchpin of Black's book, however, is the "international man of mystery" Ronald Stark. Stark's involvement with LSD trafficking began in the summer of 1969, when he approached the "hippie mafia" the Brotherhood of Eternal Love with an offer to bankroll their activities:

"In his talks with the Brotherhood, Stark impressed them with his knowledge of scams: smuggling drugs in consignments of Japanese electrical equipment, his use of business fronts in West Africa, and moving money through a maze of shell companies set up by his lawyers on various continents.

However, [stark] projected himself as interested in a lot more than money. He had a mission, he explained, to use LSD in order to facilitate the overthrow of the political systems of both the capitalist West and communist East by inducing altered states of consciousness in millions of people. Stark did not hide the fact that he was well connected in the world of covert politics. He intimated, for example, that he had contacts with the Tibetan freedom fighters loyal to the Dalai Lama and with the Japanese Mafia who could help smuggle LSD into Tibet and dose the Chinese occupiers... however, the Idylwild hippies could not have possibly guessed that Ron Stark operated on four continents and compartmentalized his international activities so that those he did business with - be they American hippies, Lebanese warlords, corporate lawyers, British scientists, Japanese Mafioso or Italian train-bombers - would have little knowledge of his 'other' activities. He could speak ten languages fluently and had the 'bottle' [of LSD], cunning, charm, and knowledge to pass himself off in various situations as a businessman, chemist, doctor, art collector, drug dealer, political activist and even as a Palestinian guerilla." (p. 20-21)

Ronald Stark

One of the most interesting sections of the book details Stark's involvement with the "acid gang" responsible for the production of most of the UK's LSD during the 1970's. "Operation Julie" eventually brought the gang down, but the story behind this operation is interesting in its own right. Of all of the characters in Black's book, only the "Julie" chemists Richard Kemp and Christine Bott are as intriguing as Stark: Kemp, once described as a "one in a million brainiac" by a fellow prison inmate, was a Cambridge-educated chemist and left-wing radical who hoped that LSD would inspire societal revolution. Kemp and Bott believed "...industrial society will collapse when the oil runs out and that the answer is to change people's mindsets using acid. They believe LSD can help people to see that a return to a natural society based on self-sufficiency is the only way to save themselves." Kemp was also responsible for a dramatic breakthrough in LSD manufacture, which was responsible for the "Julie" acid being the cleanest and strongest ever seen on a large scale in the UK.

Kemp and Bott

(taken from Lee & Pratt's Operation Julie)

The web of synchronicity deepens yet again when Kemp's association with the famed DNA co-discoverer Francis Crick is revealed:

"Dick Kemp told me he met Francis Crick at Cambridge. Crick had told him that some Cambridge academics used LSD in tiny amounts as a thinking tool, to liberate them from preconceptions and let their genius wander freely to new ideas. Crick told him he had perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD."

It was clear that Dick Kemp was highly impressed and probably bowled over by what Crick had told him. He told me that if a man like Crick, who had gone to the heart of human existence, had used LSD, then it was worth using. Crick was certainly Dick Kemp's inspiration."

Like Kemp, Stark remains an enigmatic figure throughout the book, and we never get much more than speculation as to who he actually is. Was he a CIA asset? Scion of an ultra-wealthy family? Between Stark's connections to radical groups on four continents (a mind-boggling list that includes the Weather Underground and the IRA) it is difficult to imagine that Stark was not an intelligence asset of some sort: he appeared to operate above the law. At the same time, he evidently exhibited some fuzzy political sympathies that definitely leaned in the direction of "One World Universalism." Stark's apparent tendency to latch on to "convenient" causes is all too indicative of someone operating as an agent of an Illuminati-type organization: if he did have a political agenda, it was certainly a bit more obtuse and sophisticated than anything revolving around simple "national liberation". Black also infers that Stark maintained connections to the P-2 Masonic Lodge in Italy, but the extent of his involvement is not clear.

Perhaps Stark's political orientation can be distilled from one of his few known influences: Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress:

"He saw it as a revolutionary 'handbook', every bit as inspirational as the writings of Che Guevara. Heinlein's novel, a hard-boiled political fairytale set in the year 2075, is about a penal colony on the Moon. The million inhabitants - who are housed in huge domes containing artificial atmospheres - are either Earth deportees or their descendents. They cannot return because once their bodies adapt to the Moon's gravity they can never readapt to the gravity of Earth. This lunar prison is brutally administered by a United Nations-appointed governor, who the revolutionaries try to overthrow. One of them, a character called 'the Prof', explains:

'...revolutions are not won by enlisting the masses. Revolution is a science for the few who are competent to practice it. It depends on correct organisation and above all, on communications.'

The conspiracy starts with three eople... these three in turn recruit two other people to form three new cells. This recruitment process continues until a large network of cells is built up. The advantage of the structure is that if cell members do not know each other's sub-cells, then they cannot give them away if captured. The drawback is that if a single cadre is arrested and cannot resist interrogation, then the enemy can arrest the half-a-dozen comrades he or she knows and thus reach the sub-cells. This, it becomes possible for the authorities to break the revolutionaries' chain of command and communications.

A more sophisticated system discussed in Heinlein's book is a pyramid-of-pyramids setup - a sort of 'Internet' without the computers:

'Where vertices are common, each bloke knows one in an an adjoining cell... Communications never break down because they run sideways as well as up and down. Something like a neural net.'

Damage can be stemmed and repaired because the cell member who discovers a breach in the network can pass warnings without having to know who receives the messages.

The notion of revolutionary organisation as an imitation of a 'natural' and 'organic' hierarchy is not new. Historically, August Blanqui, the most accomplished revolutionary conspirator in 19th century France, had very similar ideas about revolutionary organisation. In Heinlein's futuristic vision, however, the notion is given a neat twist: the conspiracy is helped by a miraculous super-computer, which is so powerful and complex that it 'wakes up' and becomes 'self-conscious'. The computer develops a sense of 'humour' about the 'stupidity' of the colonial administration, plus a 'rational will' to overthrow them.

The conspirators use the computer to set up front companies and fraudulently appropriate funds on the terrestrial stock exchanges. They then use the money to set up secret facilities for development of revolutionary war technology. In this scenario, then Big Brother's Brain, a scientific rationality, can be detached from ruling class control and harnessed to the revolution.

As a 'rational anarchist', the Prof believes that the concept of the State has no existence except as 'physicall exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals.' This implies that collaboration with the state is justifiable as a disguise within the strategy of systematic deception of everyone apart from those who are required to be 'in the know' for particular functions.

Stark's keen interest in these ideas is perhaps a pointer to his modus operandi. And if he really did think of himself as a revolutionary who could make use of state agencies and capitalist technology on his own terms, he was not unique in the history of politics. In the 1840's, Pierre Proudhon, a founding father of French socialism (and opponent of Blanqui), dismissed the problem of secret police spies and provocateurs in his movement. Such actions, he claimed, were 'irrelevant' to someone such as himself: a 'new man... whose style is not the barricades but discussion, a man who could sit at a table with the chief of police each evening and take all the spies in the world into his confidence.'

In Ron Stark's case, operating very much in the 20th century, political activism went far beyond discussion. Whilst he could sit at all sorts of tables, he had a certain liking for barricades as well.' (p. 149-151)

In a more base sense, the highly intelligent Stark was probably just

having quite a bit of fun: between leading his jet set lifestyle (which included a Manhattan apartment replete with original Picasso paintings), setting up front companies to facilitate the manufacture of LSD, and inhabiting a social milieu replete with the most colorful "characters" that one could imagine, his life was certainly worthy of fiction. Stark was clearly motivated by profit, but if he could justify his actions with idealism, then all the better. Idealism mixed with lucre finds its most potent expression in the drug ideologue: yes, he's helping people find God, but he's also a capitalist.

In close, Black's book comes with my highest recommendation: not only is the subject matter fascinating, but it's a first-rate piece of journalism. What follows is Black's own synopsis of the book from Lobster Magazine:


Operation Julie revisited: the strange career of Ron Stark, parapolitical alchemist

David Black

Operation Julie, a nation-wide police investigation of LSD production, was launched in 1976. Two years later, although some 60 members of the British 'microdot conspiracy' had been convicted, Detective Inspector Dick 'Leapy' Lee was dissatisfied. The operational commander of 'Julie', Lee was interested in the international connections of the network, but was blocked from probing them by the powers-that-be. One major player he was especially interested in, New Yorker Ronald Stark, was suspected of having CIA connections.

Ron Stark (1938-84) was first convicted in 1962 for making a false job application for government service and imprisoned for parole violation. Between 1967, when his net wealth was recorded as $3000, and 1968, Stark somehow became a millionaire and moved to a flash residence in Greenwich Village. To some he claimed he to be the scion of the super-rich Whitney family; to others he was the son of a rich bi-chemist. Stark spoke of having studied biochemistry at various Ivy League universities and of having quit a top secret post at the Department of Defense during the Kennedy administration because the work 'disgusted' him. One scientist who knew Stark says he claimed to have been attached to the CIA 'mind control' project - later revealed as MKULTRA.(1)

The Brotherhood of Eternal Love

Stark had world-wide business interests in pharmaceuticals. Behind his various 'legit' fronts, by 1969 he had become one of the world's leading suppliers of LSD, produced at his illicit labs in Europe. Stark also plugged himself into the counter-culture. In America he hooked up with the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (BEL), a Californian motorcycle gang who had transformed themselves, under the influence of LSD and the inspiration of Timothy Leary, into a registered 'church'. By 1969, the BEL had a sizeable share of the market for a less godly, but hugely lucrative business, LSD and marijuana.(2)

The BEL were short of materials and the capital investment needed to continue LSD production,when, in August 1969, Ron Stark visited their commune with a large bottle of pure liquid LSD, enough for up to ten million trips, and explained that he needed a secure outlet in the US for the LSD he was producing in Europe. He also declared his intention of facilitating the overthrow of both Western capitalism and Eastern Communism by inducing altered states of consciousness in millions of people and claimed that he had a contact with the Dalai Lama's Tibetan freedom fighters and could get the Japanese mafia to smuggle LSD to dose the Chinese occupiers.(3)

The authors of Acid Dreams, Martin and Lee and Bruce Shlain, note that Ron Stark's 'fateful appearance at the Idylwild ranch', coincided with certain 'unpleasant changes'. Some of the old guard had to 'retire' after skirmishes with the law, notably Stanley Owsley, the maker of 'Orange Sunshine', his protg, Tim Skully (who had originally wanted to give acid away free), and superbrat, Bill Mellon-Hitchcock, the BEL's money-launderer. Not long after Stark turned up, BEL founder, 'Farmer John' Griggs died of poisoning in circumstances his friends regarded as suspicious.(4)

Stark in Britain

Before clinching the deal with the BEL, Stark had been making some contacts in England among the radical psychiatry movement of R.D. Laing and the Tavistock Institute. One of these was David Solomon, an American researcher and writer on LSD and cannabis. Solomon had been working with Richard Kemp, a drop-out science student, and his partner, Dr. Christine Bott, to synthesize some powerful liquid cannabis. Solomon had also obtained a supply of the LSD base, ergotamine tartrate, for a shot at LSD production, and Kemp managed to make some at a makeshift lab in Liverpool.

Shortly after meeting Stark in Cambridge in Summer 1969, Solomon invited Kemp to come meet 'a man with a million dollar inheritance'. Stark convened a meeting at the Oxford and Cambridge Club on London's Pall Mall with Kemp, Simon Walton, Stark's Scots assistant, plus Solomon and his friend Paul Arnaboldi (then famous as 'Captain Bounty' in the TV chocolate ad). The Great British LSD Plot was thus hatched within weeks of Stark's first meeting with the Brotherhood in California. Stark also introduced Kemp to the Brotherhood's chemists, Nick Sand and Lester Freidman. Kemp was soon working wonders at Stark's lab in Paris and in the first run turned out a kilo of LSD.(5)

In May 1970 Kemp and Stark, with the BEL's chemists, held talks lasting four days on the future of the 'Atlantic Brotherhood'. Kemp was unhappy. He had been assigned to work on a new project to synthesize THC to make a new brand of liquid cannabis as strong as LSD and as cheap to produce. But money promised was not forthcoming, Stark discouraged visits by Kemp's partner Christine Bott, and Kemp felt 'sexually harassed' by the bi-sexual Stark. Worse, Kemp had been pulled up by British Customs during a trip with Walton from France in Stark's Ferrari to buy equipment. During a search of the car, the Customs had found documentation of a massive purchase of the LSD base, ergotamine tartrate, but failed to see its significance.(6)

When Stark moved his laboratory from Paris to Orleans, he claimed he had been warned about an impending raid on the lab when, 'by chance', he ran into an old pal who worked with the CIA station in London. By this time Kemp had had enough and decided to quit working with Stark. He returned to England in late 1970 and teamed up with Henry Todd, an accountant recruited by David Solomon. In mid-1971, as production began in Britain and the distribution network was being set up, Stark crossed the Channel in one last attempt to dissuade Kemp from branching out independently.(7)

When differences between the 'idealist' Kemp and the 'bread-head' Todd became unresolvable - Todd wanted to dilute the elixir to boost profts - it was decided to split into two independent networks. Todd centred his operation on the Thames Valley, while Kemp and Christine Bott moved out of London to North Wales and set up a lab with Paul Arnaboldi at Plas Llysin near Carno.(8) Amazingly, for the first half of the seventies, the British Acid Underground - thanks to to Stark's role as catalyst - happily churned out hundreds of millions of tabs to satisfied customers, without anyone in authority realising how big the business had become.

The BEL scatters

Following a series of raids on the BEL in America, by early 1973 the authorities estimated that some 20 members were in hiding or in exile - including Stark. Timothy Leary ended up in Afghanistan, after fleeing the US, but the US Embassy evidently knew he was coming and got the Afghan authorities to deport him back to the USA. Ron Stark visited Afghanistan at least once with a plan to set up BEL facilities for making hallucinogenic THC derivative from Afghan hash oil. Thanks to Kemp's efforts, Stark had worked out the first eight of the fourteen stages of the THC synthesis. Stark had a minister of the Afghan regime in his pocket to set up a penicillin factory as a front, and a 'contact' with the US embassy: the BEL's chief hash supplier in Kabul, Aman Tokhi, worked there as a 'maintenance supervisor'.(9)

Stark had taken over Bill Mellon-Hitchock's role in the BEL of money-launderer and procurer of LSD production materials. In 1972 Stark's lawyer in Paris, Sam Goekjian, who had drawn up the charters for Stark's front companies, was investigated by IRS agents and asked about Stark's BEL connections. The DEA, who had just rolled-up much of the BEL network in the US, organised a follow-up raid on Stark's Belgian laboratory on the campus of Louvain le Neuve, near Brussels, but Stark escaped, spiriting away the BEL's investments for his own purposes.(10)

An Inspector Lee calls

In November 1974 Inspector 'Leapy' Lee,(11) who had been running Operation STUFF (Stop Unlawful Free Festivals) in Thames Valley, began to have doubts about the official view on LSD use. According to the Home Office, annual seizures of 20,000 tabs means that 'the use of LSD in Britain was restricted to a small number of people'. Lee approached the Central Drugs Intelligence Unit (CDIU), who 'denied having any information which showed LSD to be a problem'. It would take Lee another three years to fully discover that 'since 1970 an illicit organization had been manufacturing around 20,000,000 tiny LSD tablets [a year] and selling them to two-thirds of the world'.(12)

After his arrest in 1977, Richard Kemp insisted that all of the links between the British networks and the BEL had been broken in 1970. 'Leapy' Lee, however, knew that Ron Stark had passed through London in Spring 1973 while on the run from US authorities and had obtained a false passport here.(13) Lee wanted to find out more but was blocked from on high; possibly, he suspected, to prevent questions arising as to why action hadn't been taken years earlier. He had learned that the Home Office drugs inspectorate had submitted a report as early as 1971 which noted the exports of tartrate to America from Britain and furthermore suggested that LSD microdots seized across the world 'originated from one common source which, in all probability, was somewhere in Britain.'

First hints of the Welsh connection

In Spring 1975, when evidence began to point towards an LSD supply source in Wales, Lee learned that the Central Drugs Intelligence Unit had been withholding information from him on 'a number of leads pointing to an LSD conspiracy in the United Kingdom....the information had been withheld from all drug squads except the Metropolitan.' Lee learned that a year previously Dectective Inspectors Godfrey and O'Hanlon of the CDIU had travelled to Canada to hear Kemp's former tableteer, Gerry Thomas, name Kemp, Bott and Solomon as LSD con-spirators. On returning, O'Hanlon was suspended and subsequently sentenced to eight years imprisonment for corruption. D.I. Godfrey did initiate an investigation of a trip by Solomon to Switzerland to meet Leary; but, in Lee's words, the Met then 'botched' a raid on Solomon's London home and missed some documents he had concerning Leary's secret negotiations over a contract for his book On the Run. Godfrey and CDIU lost track of Richard Kemp and Christine Bott.(14)

Lee discovered that an investigation as far back as 1971 had been getting near the truth but had collapsed when the gang under surveillance by the Thames Valley Squad and Customs were robbed of money and drugs by officers of the Met.! According to Detective Constable Martyn Pritchard of the Julie squad, the 1971 investigation did reveal enough to register suspicions 'that a big LSD factory was in business.'(15)

Cue the spooks

That the security services regarded LSD as an issue of 'national security' was confirmed when Lee began to follow leads on Ron Stark and discovered that the security services had been on the trail before him. When Lee went to see the security services about the loan of some high-tech surveillance equipment, he briefed them on 'the suspected international level of LSD trafficking and, more particularly, the probable involvement of terrorist groups like Baader-Meinhof and the Angry Brigade'. Lee had noticed that the network he was investigating had 'a cell-like structure similar to that used by terrorist groups'. Lee was referring to the system of pre-arranged meetings places and dead letter-box drops in tins buried under trees to deliver the LSD to the distributors and collect payment.(16)

Lee had begun to suspect terrorist connections when, during surveillance of the Let-It-Be Commune in Wiltshire, a car used by a dealer suspected of working for the LSD network turned out to have been 'linked' in some (unspecified) way to the West German Red Army faction. A check on an associate of the distribution network in Wales showed him to be 'an associate of the Angry Brigade'. Although none of those arrested in Operation Julie were charged with political offences, the supposed 'terrorist connection' did emerge in the pre-trial press coverage. The Daily Mirror ran a piece on how Kemp and his colleagues were 'allegedly' preparing to put LSD into the water supply.(17) Documents from police files on the defendants' alleged political views were also circulated to the media. Richard Kemp, for example, was described as a 'left-wing revolutionary ... his motive for suspected acid activity: a catalyst of British revolution by youth brought on by the use of LSD'. Kemp told the police that he had supported festivals such as Windsor and Glastonbury and had given money to Release, the drugs legal help-line, and had supported 'Head politics' (but refused to name which groups).(18)

In fact the only drug dealers of an significance during this period with terrorist 'connections' of whom we know were Howard Marks - through the maverick Irish 'republican' Jim McCann - and Ron Stark. According to Tendler and May's book on the BEL, FBI reports passed on to the DEA in California and to the British police 'only showed what Stark was not, not what he actually was'. Inspector Lee's informant, 'Nancy', 'strongly suspected that Stark was involved with the CIA and had friends in the American Embassy'.(19)

In 1972 Hamilton Macmillan, an MI6 officer and nephew of the former Tory Prime Minister, recruited Howard Marks, his old chum from Balliol College, Oxford, to spy on Jim McCann, a hash smuggler whom MI6 believed was a Provisional IRA contact in Amsterdam. Macmillan gave no indication that he knew Marks was already doing business with McCann, or that he knew Marks' name and address had turned up in the address book of arrested IRA volunteer, Dutch Doherty. (The address had been passed onto Doherty by McCann). MI6 did not appear to realise that the IRA had rejected McCann's efforts to involve them in drugs and that he was using his contacts with republican activists to boost his credibility as a smuggler.(20) Macmillan's scheme went awry when Marks decided to let McCann in on the secret of his 'deal' with MI6. (MI6's admitted involvement later sank the prosecutions of both men.) When the police learned of Marks' operation after his disappearance in 1974, they suspected that until 1973 he had been dealing with the BEL, and from then on with its remnants.

Ron Stark was not far from Marks' and McCann's scene. In 1971 McCann had taken two American journalists from the London-based 'head' magazine, Frendz, to Belfast, and, while showing them round, tried to fire-bomb Queens University and got them all arrested and charged. It was one of the Americans, Alan Marcuson, who subsequently put McCann in touch with Marks through another old Oxford friend, Graham Plinston.(21) In London, Stark, who was sniffing around radical circles, contacted the solicitor representing the American pair. He expressed some interest in McCann and promised financial support, which never came to anything.(22) Stark was thus poking his nose into the Marks-McCann operation nearly two years before MI6's Macmillan recruited Howard Marks.

The questions asked but not answered

Stark was in prison in Italy in 1977 when Macmillan was posted to the British Embassy in Rome. Macmillan would have been in an ideal position at the MI6 station there to help Lee obtain the documents seized by the Italian police when they arrested Stark in 1975.(23) But the papers didn't arrive until a year after Lee made the request, by which time his investigation was being wound up. Stark's papers included formulas for the synthesis of LSD and THC, some of which were identical to Kemp's; documents on the BEL's tartrate dealings in England; letters to Stark at his laboratory in Belgium from Charles Adams, an 'economic counsellor' at the American embassy in London; and draft letters from Stark to Wendy Hansen, American vice-counsel in Florence which discussed the possibility of a coup in Italy (for which, he said, conditions, were not yet ripe).(24)

This raises this question: if Stark, the catalyst of the British LSD explosion, was an American asset, would his agency have allowed him to break the law and endanger the national security of America's most senior partner in NATO? The answer might be 'yes' if the agency had a joint covert operation with their British counterparts - say in the area of 'counter-terrorism' - which was important enough to justify the risks. Stark was in prison in Italy from 1975-79 following his involvement with a gang of drug-dealing fascist terrorists. But he rubbed shoulders in prison with leading members of the Red Brigades, while maintaining contact with secret intelligence agencies on the outside. He is suspected by some of involvement in the Moro kidnapping.

In 1979 Stark appealed against his 14 year sentence. According to the judge who granted him bail and thus allowed him to flee Italy, 'an impressive series of scrupulously enumerated proofs' suggested 'that from 1960 onwards Stark belonged to the American secret services' and had 'entered the Middle East drug world in order to infiltrate armed organisations operating in that area and gain contacts and information about European terrorist groups' - a statement which raises as many questions as it answers.(25)


1. Stewart Tendler and David May, Brotherhood of Eternal Love- From Flower Power to Hippie Mafia; the Story of the LSD Counterculture, Panther, London 1984 pp. 174-5; Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD and the Sixties Rebellion, Groven Weidenfeld, New York, 1985 p. 249; Martin A. Lee, 'Rasputin of LSD' in National Reporter, Fall 1988;Dick Lee and Colin Pratt, Operation Julie, W.H. Allen, London 1978 p. 71

2. Tendler and May, op. cit. pp. 174-5

3. Lee and Shlain op. cit. p. 248

4. Lee and Shlain op. cit. pp. 245-6; Tendler and May op. cit. p. 160. See also Timothy Leary's Flashbacks - an Autobiography, 1983.

5. Lee and Pratt op. cit. p. 350; Tendler and May op. cit. pp. 177-82. Lee and Shlain (p. 288) mistakenly credit Kemp rather than Stark with having produced the kilo Stark took to Idlywild. In fact Stark and Kemp barely met and didn't begin working together on LSD until the end of 1969.

6. Lee and Pratt op. cit. p. 377

7. Tendler and May op. cit .p. 186; Lee and Pratt op. cit. p. 337

8. Ibid. p. 50

9. Tendler and May op. cit. p. 230

10. Ibid. pp. 171

11. For those without a detailed memory of pop trivia, a 'Leapy Lee' had one hit record in Britain around this time. Hence Lee's nickname.

12. Lee and Pratt op. cit. pp. 12-18

13. Ibid. p. 290

14. Ibid p. 47. See also Cox, Shirley and Short, The Fall of Scotland Yard, Penguin, 1977.

15. Martyn Pritchard and Ed Laxton, Busted!, Mirror Books, London, 1978

16. Lee and Pratt op. cit. p. 100

17. The Leveller April 1978

18. Lee and Pratt op. cit. p. 290.

19. Ibid p. 337

20. David Leigh, High Times, Heinemann, London 1984, p. 68

21. Ibid. pp. 40-50

22. Tendler and May, op. cit. p. 274

23. Jonathan Bloch and Patrick Fitzgerald, British Intelligence and Covert Action, Brandon, Kerry, Ireland, 1983, pp. 223-5 and 258

24. Lee and Pratt op. cit p. 334; Philip Willan, The Puppet-Masters: the Political Use of Terrorism in Italy, Constable, London, 199, p. 312.

25. Willan, op. cit.p. 309; Lee and Shalin op. cit. p. 281; Martin A. Lee in National Reporter, Fall 1988



Sunday, October 05, 2008


The history of LSD has been the subject of numerous studies in the past and the subject of a number of previous posts on The Generalist (see below). Andy Roberts new book 'Albion Dreaming' is a welcome addition to the literature as it breaks new ground by concentrating on the significant effects LSD had on British culture - the first such book to do so.

It is distinguished by a high-level of original research, including numerous interviews with key characters and material from previously unresearched government documents. The book is well-referenced throughout, has a interesting 16pp black-and-white photo section, and will prove a useful and reliable source to researchers and historians in many fields.Roberts writes from a counter-culture perspective in a readable non-academic style which makes his book also accessible to the general reader.

The book, he says, was written to redress the balance in what he sees as an American bias in previous LSD historical accounts and to restore 'Britain's status as a major crucible of LSD culture.'

He writes: 'In fact, LSD is a European export to America. The drug was discovered in Switzerland, the British pioneered LSD psychotherapy and military tests, and much of the counter-culture's underlying philosophy stems from British expatriates such as Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts. On a more fundamental level, at certain times, the bulk of the world's LSD was manufactured in Britain.'

The author has provided a useful chapter-by-chapter commentary on the book's contents, reproduced below, to which I have added additional thoughts and comments, based on my close reading of the text.

1. Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out: Introduction

The author refers to several interesting books of which I was previously unaware: 'Psychedelia Britannica' by Tony Melechi, 'Acid' by David Black and Paul Devereux's 'The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia.'

2. Hofmann's Potion: Albert Hofmann's discovery and the history of LSD worldwide up to1952. Unusual facts about Hofmann's spiritual life prior to the discovery of LSD. Early distribution to the CIA and other military sources.

Sources the origins of the idea of putting LSD in the water supply to a conversation between Los Angeles psychiatrist Nick Bercel, the first medical professional in the USA to work with LSD, and the CIA. He told them that the chlorine in the water would make the drug innefective. Roberts recommends 'Acid Dreams' by Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain as the most comprehensive book on the history of the CIA's involvement with LSD in their search for the ultimate 'truth drug'.

3. LSD: The Cure of Souls?: The coming of LSD to Britain in late 1952. Development of LSD/ psychotherapy at Powick and elsewhere. Unusual government connections with LSD psychotherapy unit at Powick. Interview with Dr Ronnie Sandison etc. The demise of LSD as a therapeutic tool. Dr Sandison's wife wrote to tell me (Ronnie is aged and unable to write) that this chapter was 'The best treatment of R's work I have seen in print'.

Centres on the above-mentioned interview with Sandison, who became Consultant Psychiatrist to Worcester's Powick Hospital from Sept 1951 to 1964. During this time he was supplied free LSD by Sandoz; he had met Hofmann there who had given him a present of a box of ampoules of LSD, making Sandison the first person to bring LSD to Britain. Sandison and colleagues carried out LSD experiments on 36 patients with very difficult psychiatriic problems over the course of a year in 1953. Their report was the first article about LSD to be published in Britain. The results were encouraging: 14 of the subjects recovered; 3 showed moderate improvement. Sandison's work was expanded and a special brick LSD unit was built, with the help of Dr Joel Elkes; Sandison was not aware at the tijme that Elkes had close connections with the Ministry of Defence (MOD). All this work was secret. Sandison believes that, by the mid-1950s, there were more than 10 centres in Britain practicing LSD psychotherapy experiments; by the 1970s, therapy with LSD in Britain had ceased completely.

Chapter also mentions Frankie Howerd's and Sean Connery's experiences with LSD, introduces Ronnie Laing and Syd Barrett.

4. LSD: A Cure for the Common Cold: LSD experiments by the SIS (MI6) in the early 1950s. Continued experiments by the Ministry of Defence in the 1960s. Links with US intelligence.

The fascinating story of the LSD experiments at Porton Down (1953-54), instituted by MI6, and kept secret until 2002. Volunteers were duped into taking LSD without their informed consent. Lab testing resumed in 1961-62 followed by field trials with troops in 1964 and 1966. In March 1971, Porton Down traced soldiers involved in the '60s tests but the details of these follow-up interview have been lost. A detailed police investigation named Operation Antler into a wide variety of experiments carried at Porton (including the LSD tests) was initiated in 1999: its findings were submitted to the Crown prosecution Service (CSP) who concluded that nobody would face criminal charges. Three LSD test veterans waged their own legal compensation battle and settled out of court with the MOD for a reported £10,000 in February 2006.

5. The Joyous Cosmology: Intellectual precursors of the LSD generation focusing on British ex-pats: Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard as well as David Solomon, Timothy Leary and co. How the counter-culture's philosophy was formed.

Much of the material on Huxley is well-known including his experiences on mescaline with Dr Humphrey Osmond, who later coined the term 'psychedlic. This led to his book 'The Doors of Perception', a line from William Blake. His first LSD trip was in October 1955. Less well-known characters are Captain Alfred M. Hubbard, credited with turning on 6,000 people to LSD and Michael Hollingshead, who similarly made it his mission to spread LSD widely. Huxley introduced Hollingshead to Timothy Leary, who first tripped out with trumpeter Maynard Ferguson and his wife in December 1961 on acid supplied by Hollingshead, who was also present. American writer David Solomon was literary editor for Playboy in the early '60s and published material by Leary and Osmond. Huxley he described as his 'guru extraordinaire.'

6. The Foggy Ruins of Time: Early recreational use of LSD in Britain 1959-late 1965: Trocchi, Hollingshead, the London Psychedelic Centre etc. Government and media interest.

A valuable chapter much of which was new to this reader, particular the central role of Scottish writer Alex Trocchi,

best known for the heroin memoir 'Cain's Book', here revealed as one of the first major importers of LSD into Britain. His flat in Notting Hill Gate was one of five main LSD pads of the time, the others being 101 Cromwell Rd (where Syd Barrett lived for a while and where Jagger, McCartney and Donovan visited), the luxurious residence of antqiue dealer Christopher Gibb in Cheyne Walk, and 25 Pont Street, both in Chelsea. Hollingshead pops up throughout the narrative as does R.D. Laing. Retells the story of Vince Taylor, the first LSD rock casualty, the man on whom David Bowie based Ziggy Stardust and who Joe Strummer called 'the beginning of British rock 'n' roll.'

7. Strangely Strange, but Oddly Normal: LSD in Britain in 1966. Early users and trials. John Esam. LSD in development of London's counterculture. 'London Life's exposure of Hollingshead's activities. Terry Taylor and the Notting Hill LSD cult. The legislation against LSD and on what basis it came about.

1966 was the year when police arrests began in earnest and the national press began infiltrating the scene and publishing banner headline scare stories.Britain's first successful legal prosecution of freelance photographer Roger Lewis for LSD possession resulted in a £25 fine. Michael Hollingshead was sent to prison for 21 months, during which he took acid in Wormwood Scrubs with the Russian spy George Blake, who escaped from prison to Russia shortly afterwards. New to me was the story of Teddy Taylor, the model for Colin McInnes novel 'Absolure Beginners'; his 1961 novel 'Baron's Court, All Change' contained the first fictional refernce to LSD in Britain. In 1966, the UN called for world governments to put in place controls to prevent the manufacture, sale or use of LSD. In June the British Medical Journal called for LSD to be made illegal in Britain. On July 21st, Roy Jenkins presented to Parliament a draft order calling for LSD to be incorporated into the Misuse of Drugs Act. On September 9th, LSD became illegal to possess or distribute in the UK, followed by the US a month later.

8. Senses Working Overtime: LSD in Britain in 1967. Pop stars and LSD use. The 101 Cromwell Road scene. BBC and LSD lyrics. The first LSD chemist and manufacturing and distribution network in Britain.

Largely concerned with the crossover with LSD and the music scene. Documents the Stones' bust at Redlands, the News of the World's expose of Donovan's LSD lifestyle and LSD links to the Move, the Moody Blues and the Beatles. Also details of Victor James Kapur, the first LSD chemist to be busted in Britain.

9. All You Need is Love?: LSD in Britain 1968-73.Trial of first outlaw British LSD chemist. Tim Leary in Britain. LSD and spirituality in Britain. More on early LSD chemists. Hollingshead and the Isle of Cumbrae commune. Early sightings of Operation Julie participants.

This period saw LSD move from being a consciousness changing substance linked to the movers and shakers of the '60s to a cheap and widely available drug. Emphasises the importance of the 1971 Glastonbury Fayre festival, LSD's infiltration into the squatting movement, continued legal prosecutions and the early roots of the Free Festival movement and what was to become the biggest LSD manufacturing business in British history.

10. Bring What You Expect to Find:LSD and free festivals. How free festivals were focussed on and motivated by LSD. Glastonbury Fayre 1971 and LSD. Watchfield, Windsor, Meigan, Trentishoe, Wally Hope, Bill Dwyer, Sid Rawle.

A useful short history of the Free Festival movement, beginning with Phun City in 1970.

11. The Mind Alchemists: Operation Julie. This chapter analyses the Operation Julie LSD manufacturing and distribution ring. Contains recent information given by one of the main participants.A look at the events leading up to the trial, the trail and its aftermath from a counterculture perspective.

Little to add. Roberts points out that those interested in the fine detail of this story should consult 'Operation Julie' by Dick Lee (the head of the police operation) and Stewart Tendler and David May's 'Brotherhood of Eternal Love.'

12. Coming Down Again: LSD in the 80s and 90s. The rise of rave culture and ecstasy

Begins with Julien Cope of Teardrop Explodes and the Liverpool Club Eric's, the further rise of the Free Festival Movement, its untimely end in 1984 at the Battle of the Beanfield, the rise of the Peace Convoy, the emergence of Ecstasy and the rave culture, the Criminal Justic and Public Order Act 1984, the reemergence of blotter acid and the court case brought by participants in LSD medical experiments in the 1950s and 1960s against the NHS, who eventually paid out £195,000.

13. Revolution in the Head: LSD and the future of drug laws.

At the beginning of the new century, public interest was low, legal cases were small, siezure rates falling. Account of the case of the Brighton-based LSD chemist Casey Hardison, who was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. A two -year investigation funded by the Royal College of Arts, published in March 2007, called for the legal status of all drugs to be reclassified in line with their potential for actual harm. In October that year, Richard Brumstrom, then Chief Constable of North Wales, called for a radical overhaul of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Prohibition, he claimed, causes five harms: increasing crime, overloading the crininal justice system, economic harm, undermining public health, destablisation of countries producing drugs, the undermining of civil rights. The book ends with the death of Albert Hofmann on 29th April 2008 and a quote from Aldous Huxley, in a letter he wrote to Hofmann:

' Essentially this is what must be developed: the art of giving out in love and intelligence what is taken from vision and the experience of self-transcendence and solidarity with the universe.

Edited by Steven Gaal
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

The Seven Tounges of God was a lecture delivered at a meeting of Lutheran psychologists and other interesteed professionals, sponsored by the Board of Theological Education, Lutheran Church in America, in conjunction with the Seventy-first Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Bellevue Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia, 30 August 1963: later published in Psychedelic Review, No. 3, 1964. (this is a footnote from the chapter below.



The Turn-On

Once upon a time, many years ago, on a sunny afternoon in the garden of a Cuernavaca villa, I ate seven of the so-called sacred mushrooms which had been given to me by a scientist from the University of Mexico. During the next five hours, I was whirled through an experience which could be described in many extravagant metaphors but which was, above all and without question, the deepest religious experience of my life.

Statements about personal reactions, however passionate, are always relative to the speaker’s history and may have little general significance. Next come the questions “Why?” and “So what?”

There are many predisposing factors — intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social — which cause one person to be ready for a dramatic mind-opening experience and which lead another to shrink back from new levels of awareness. The discovery that the human brain possesses an infinity of potentialities and can operate at unexpected space-time dimensions left me feeling exhilarated, awed, and quite convinced that I had awakened from a long ontological sleep.This sudden flash awakeningis called “turning on.”

Tuning In

A profound transcendent experience should leave in its wake a changed man and a changed life. Since my illumination of August 1960, I have devoted most of my energies to trying to understand the revelatory potentialities of the human nervous system and to making these insights available to others.

I have repeated this biochemical and (to me) sacramental ritual several hundred times, and almost every time I have been awed by religious revelations as shattering as the first experience. During this period I have been lucky enough to collaborate in this work with several hundred scientists and scholars who joined our various research projects. In our centers at Harvard, in Mexico, and at Millbrook we have arranged transcendent experiences for several thousand persons from all walks of life, including more than 200 full-time religious professionals, about half of whom profess the Christian or Jewish faiths and about half of whom belong to Eastern religions.

Included in this roster are several divinity college deans, divinity college presidents, university chaplains, executives of religious foundations, prominent religious editors, and several distinguished religious philosophers. In our research files and in certain denominational offices there is building up a large and quite remarkable collection of reports which will be published when the political atmosphere becomes more tolerant. At this point it is conservative to state that over 75% of these subjects report intense mystico-religious responses, and considerably more than 50% claim that they have had the deepest spiritual experience of their life.

The interest generated by the research at Harvard led to the formation in 1962 of an informal group of ministers, theologians and religious psychologists who met once a month. In addition to arranging for spiritually oriented psychedelic sessions and discussing prepared papers, this group provided the guides for the dramatic “Good Friday” study and was the original planning nucleus of the organizations which assumed sponsorship of our research in consciousness expansion: IFIF (the International Federation for Internal Freedom), 1963, the Castalia Foundation, 1963-66, and the League for Spiritual Discovery, 1966. The generating impulse and the original leadership of our work and play came from a seminar in religious experience, and this fact may be related to the alarm which we have aroused in some secular and psychiatric circles.''

then published along with 22 other articles in as a first chapter in 1970 in Britain then had some 7 reprints over the next couple of years. Somehow I ended up with one of those copies. It's quite fascinating to read in conjunction with much in this topic. (imo)

edit format

Edited by John Dolva
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

This topic can't be considered adequately covered without a nod to Aldous Huxley, who, of course died the same day John F. Kennedy died.

Reprinted courtesy of the Fortean Times.

Also See


Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley was already a legendary figure in the literary sphere when he was introduced to the milieu of mind-bending drugs. Antonio Melechi takes a trip down memory lane to fling wide The Doors Of Perception and seek the pathway to Heaven and Hell.

By Antonio Melechi
February 2004
In the evening of 5 May 1953, the tree-lined streets running off Sunset Boulevard “trembled on the brink of the supernatural” and the houses in the hills of nearby Hollywood “gleamed in the sunshine, like fragments of the New Jerusalem”. For Aldous Huxley, this was a last, dazzling glimpse of a vanishing Eden. Eight hours earlier, he had swallowed four-tenths of a gramme of mescaline, courtesy of Dr Humphry Osmond, the psychiatrist now riding in the back seat, and immersed himself in the quivering “is-ness” of his everyday surroundings. The downtown drive to the ‘World’s Largest Drug Store’ confirmed what Huxley had suspected: “transfiguration was proportional to distance. The nearer, the more divinely other.” But now, as his car pulled up to North Kings Road, even the nearest of objects had recovered the dull patina of familiarity. Huxley, the mystic manqué, had come back through the door in the wall.

This was not what he had expected. The medical literature on mescaline described the restless “visions of many-coloured geometries”, “animated architecture”, “landscapes with heroic figures” which experimenters had seen with closed eyes. But Huxley, whose eyesight was extremely poor and capacity for vivid recall almost nil, was not to be transported into these visionary realms. “The great change,” that occurred to him under mescaline, “was in the realm of objective fact.” A vase of flowers appeared to glow and breathe. The books in his study seemed to be illuminated by a “living light”. A bamboo chair offered “new direct insight into the very Nature of Things.” And, most miraculously of all, the folds of his trousers hosted “the unfathomable mystery of pure being”.

Earlier that morning, Osmond had watched nervously as he poured the silvery-white crystals into water. Fearing that he might be remembered as the “the man who drove Aldous Huxley mad”, he decided to halve the dose, then changed his mind. After giving Huxley his mescaline at 11 o’ clock, Osmond, who had recently begun to use the hallucinogen in his research on the biochemistry of schizophrenia, monitored Huxley’s response to music, illustrations and various objects about him. Very soon, all his worries were allayed. Aside from one moment in the garden – when Huxley was briefly panicked “by a chair which looked like the Last Judgement” – he proved a perfect subject. “This is how one ought to see, how things really are,” he kept repeating to the tape recorder that quietly whirred by his side.

Peyote, the small, spineless, parsnip-shaped cactus (below) from which mescaline is derived, grows south of the Rio Grande, which divides southern Texas from northern Mexico. The remarkable properties of this ‘divine cactus’, deified as peyotl by the Aztecs, were first catalogued by the Franciscan missionary Bernardino de Sahagun. “Those who eat or drink it,” Sahagun wrote in 1560, “see visions either frightful or laughable… it stimulates them and gives them sufficient spirit to fight and have neither fear, thirst, nor hunger… It causes those devouring it to foresee and predict; such, for instance, as whether the weather will continue; or to discern who has stolen from them”. Condemned as an agent of sorcery and superstition by the Catholic Church, the use of peyote was never successfully outlawed, and most of the surviving tribes of Mexican Indians continued to consult and seek protection from the magical plant.

Western science began to take an interest in the peyote cactus in the 1880s – the period in which the young Freud gave up on cocaine, another ‘magical substance’ from the New World – when the Ghost Dance religion took hold on the Comanche and Kiowa reservations. After James Mooney, an agent of the American Bureau of Ethnology, observed and participated in the newly-flourishing messianic rites, samples of peyote were sent to chemists who dryly confirmed that “the production of visions is the most interesting of the physiological effects” of the drug. The race to unpack its chemical constituents was led by German chemists. In 1888, the Berlin toxicologist Louis Lewin reported having isolated an alkaloid, Anhalonin, from the samples of dried peyote. As research into this new visionary substance intensified, his compatriot Arthur Hefter succeeded in isolating four alkaloids. Through self-experimentation he attributed the most potent effects to the alkaloid which he dubbed Mezcalin, and which American commentators re-christened mescaline (popularised as mescalin). A wave of medical and literary self-experimentation greeted the discovery. As Freud dabbled with free association, a preamble to the full-blown talking cure, peyote and mescaline set about ram-raiding the unconscious.

This little-known chapter in the history of psychopharmacology had two distinct phases. First, came the self-experiments of eminent physicians such as Weir Mitchell, whose breathless account of closed-eye visions (replete with silver stars, gothic architecture, precious stones and coloured fruit) culminated in predicting a “perilous reign of the mescal habit when this agent becomes available.” Inspired by Mitchell, the English psychologist and critic Havelock Ellis undertook the first of a number of experiments on Good Friday, 1897. The “orgy of vision” which unfolded before him was “not only an unforgettable delight, but an educational influence of no mean value.” Following the laboratory synthesis of mescaline in 1919, research accelerated and revealed a common core of visual phenomena – filigree, cobwebs, cogwheels, flowers, snowflakes – which all appeared to be generated by the eye’s sub-cortical system. To render these ‘indescribable’ visions, European researchers turned increasingly to professional artists. At London’s Maudsley hospital, for example, Julian Trevelyan was one of a number of painters who tried to capture the drug’s ‘mechanical ballet’. Like Ellis before him, Trevelyan also experienced something more. As doctors assailed him with ‘ridiculous questions’, Trevelyan found himself gripped by a secret rapture – he had “fallen in love with a sausage roll and a piece of crumpled newspaper from a pig-bucket”.

Mescaline had by now embarked on its second, more diabolical career as an agent for producing a ‘model psychosis’. (The chemical search for drugs capable of mimicking madness harked back to the 1840s, when the French alienist Jacques Joseph Moreau took hashish in order to examine the nature of delirium from within.) Research conducted by Kurt Beringer at Heidelberg Psychiatric Clinic in the late 1920s underlined mescaline’s capacity to similarly stir delusions and hallucinations, paranoia and depersonalisation, especially when administered in higher dosage. One Italian psychiatrist was able to report these effects at first hand. During a profoundly paranoiac episode in his Milan apartment, GE Morselli watched helplessly as a Titian portrait became eerily animate. For the next two months, Morselli was haunted by this belligerent squatter.

It was while writing Brave New World (1932) that Huxley first became aware of mescaline. By this time, the drug’s popularity among European intellectuals was beginning to catch the attention of the medical press. “The use of this alkaloid,” warned the British Journal of Addiction in 1931 “has indeed become almost a cult by reason of its peculiar physiological effects”. The spectre of so-called ‘mescal addiction’ was, however, far-fetched. Twenty years on, when Osmond and his colleagues reminded the medical world that mescaline produced “every single major symptom of acute schizophrenia,” the drug was almost forgotten. As a long-time critic of “asinine psychiatry”, Huxley was intrigued to learn that mescaline was being used experimentally by Osmond and his co-workers at Saskatchewan Hospital. The short letter he sent to Osmond in April 1953, after reading about his attempts to unlock the causes and nature of schizophrenia, endorsed the approach but elided his real interests. Remembering what he had read about mescaline in Louis Lewin’s Phantastica, Huxley realised that the drug might also be used as a conduit to the other worlds described by William Law, Jacob Boehme and the perennial philosophers.

When the opportunity to experiment finally presented itself, Huxley was not disappointed. Witnessing “what Adam had seen on the morning of his creation – the miracle, moment by moment, of naked existence,” he understood how words and concepts came to impede the ability to look at the world directly. The chemical door in the wall had, apparently, allowed him to flee the prison house of language, the tyranny of conceptual thinking.

The Doors of Perception (1954) took Huxley two months to complete. A first draft was passed on to his wife, Maria, who had been present throughout the experiment. It was at her suggestion that Aldous’s blue jeans (the folds of which had suggested “a labyrinth of endless complexity”) were swapped for a more respectable pair of grey flannels. To this amendment, Huxley added one of his own: he replaced the solution of mescaline sulphate with a more palatable ‘pill’. But these were trifling details. When it came to the more pressing question of the value of the visionary experience, drug-induced or otherwise, Huxley’s conclusion was emphatic:

All I am suggesting is that the mescalin experience is what the Catholic theologians call a ‘gratuitous grace,’ not necessary to salvation but potentially helpful and to be accepted thankfully, if made available. To be shaken out of the ruts of ordinary perception, to be shown for a few timeless hours the outer and inner world… directly and unconditionally, by Mind at Large – this is an experience of inestimable value to everyone and especially the intellectual.

Published in February 1954, the ‘little book’ was an immediate bestseller. Hundreds of readers offered parallel experiences of childbirth, sleep deprivation, fasting and meditation. A number of reviewers, including Huxley’s friend Raymond Mortimer, penned their own broadsheet accounts of mescaline visions. Not surprisingly, few of Huxley’s critics picked up on the full range of ideas and observations that he had shoehorned into 20,000 words. The conviction that differences in human physique could explain variations in temperament was passed over. His notion of the mind as a “cerebral reducing valve” was largely ignored, as were his asides on the nature of the schizophrenic experience and the decline of visionary arts. Debate was instead centred on the spiritual register in which Huxley had enshrined his own experience of mescaline – from Meister Eckhart’s ‘Istigkeit’, to the ‘Being’ of Platonic philosophy and the ‘Void’ in Zen Buddhism – and the questionable value of drugs as aids to religious experience.

Most of Huxley’s detractors echoed what the novelist Thomas Mann, a one-time champion of Huxley, wrote about The Doors of Perception in a letter to Ida Herz – “an irresponsible book, which can only contribute to the stupefaction of the world and to its inability to meet the deadly questions of the time with intelligence.” RC Zaehner, an Oxford Professor of Eastern Religions and Ethics, went one step further, volunteering to take mescaline in order to undermine Huxley’s claims. Zaehner’s prejudices were confirmed: “self-transcendence of a sort did take place, but transcendence into a world of farcical meaninglessness. All things were one in the sense that they were all, at the height of my manic state, equally funny.”

In the meantime, Huxley resumed his investigations. In 1955, he took mescaline twice. On the first occasion he was in the company of his old friend Gerald Heard, a well-known pacifist, novelist and dilettante in psychical research, and Al Hubbard, the eccentric president of a Vancouver uranium corporation, who had been independently experimenting with mescaline and LSD as bridges to the spirit world. This group session introduced Huxley to the social aspect of the mescaline experience – he had previously felt cut off from Maria and Osmond, avoiding eye contact throughout – and provided him with a “transcendental experience within this world and with human references”.

While he attempted to convince Osmond that all future research should provide subjects with undirected time, so that they could make their own way towards the “Clear Light”, he also explored the artistic depiction of visionary worlds in his essay Heaven and Hell (1956). Huxley’s talent for the ‘curious fact’ and the ‘necessary digression’ was nowhere better deployed: the role of the collector in early science; the mystical writings of Traherne and Surin; the importance of precious stones in visionary art; the early development of landscape painting in China; the use of carbon dioxide and stroboscopic lamps as aids to visionary experience; the rise and fall of pyrotechny. The spell of Huxley’s meandering reflections was broken only on close inspection. The central trope of Heaven and Hell – that the borderlands of psychology are to modern day science what the flora and fauna of the New World were to the 19th-century naturalists – was particularly convoluted. This florid analogy stressed “the essential otherness of the mind’s far continents”, yet it altogether neglected the mysteries of so-called ‘everyday consciousness’.

Over the next seven or so years, Huxley continued to explore the potential use of psychedelics, adding LSD and psilocybin to his personal repertoire. Whether writing for Esquire, lecturing to the New York Academy of Science, or being interviewed for the BBC, he continued to press the therapeutic and educational benefits that might come of “a course of chemically triggered conversion experience or ecstasies”. As an advocate of the psychedelic experience, he retained all the rhetorical tricks he had deployed in his early satires. Addressing critics like Zaehner, who scorned his brand of ‘instant mysticism’, he argued that to revert to more primitive and prolonged methods was “as senseless as it would be for an aspiring cook to behave like Charles Lamb’s Chinaman, who burned down the house in order to roast a pig”. But there were limitations to his approach. Compared to the Belgian-born poet and painter Henri Michaux, who had begun a remarkable series of prose studies on mescaline and other hallucinogens, Huxley’s scatterbrained offerings were overloaded with reflection and interpretation. Whereas Michaux provided a poetic and forensically intimate account of his ‘co-habitation’ with mescaline and other drugs, Huxley – who never wrote while under the influence – delivered a metaphysical framework and programme. His preoccupations remained essentially utilitarian.

Was the Huxley who came back through the door opened by mescaline a different man? Had his outlook changed in any significant sense? Clearly, his passionate engagement with the question of chemical transcendence required no conversion or leap of faith. Before discovering mescaline he had explored most of the borderlands of psychology and was still searching for a via regis to mystical illumination. Yet his sense of intellectual office was clearly affected by his experiences. Having played the role of literary curator and custodian to a range of scientific oddities, Huxley emerged as a full-blown gentleman activist, prepared to address and ask questions of pharmacology, biochemistry, physiology, neurology, psychology and psychiatry. For all his wayward enthusiasm, Huxley was, and remains, a useful antidote to the confederacy of peer-reviewed science.

Edited by Robert Howard
Link to comment
Share on other sites




A Book Review of David Black's Acid: A New Secret History of LSD


Cue David Black's Acid: The Secret History of LSD. Those still under the impression that history is little more than the sum total of visible events will greet Black's book with incredulity: the synchronistic connections described in just one paragraph can amaze:

"For laundering, [bill] Hitchcock used the facilities offered by the fiscal paradise of the Bahamas, where he already had a private account at the Castle Bank and Trust. This laundromat [Castle Bank and Trust] for Mafia narcotics trafficking had been co-founded by Edward Halliwell, a CIA asset involved in Air America and Civil Air Transport. These 'airlines' were agency front companies for flying heroin around the Burma Triangle to bankroll covert operations in Indo-China. He made arrangements for the Brotherhood [of Eternal Love, the Californian LSD manufacturing/trafficking organization described in Tendler and May's book of the same name] at Resorts International, a conduit for huge amounts of Mafia money, and at the Fiduciary Trust Company, an offshoot of Investors Overseas Services, headed by the notorious and crooked financier Bernie Cornfeld." (p. 18)

Not to pick-nit but this is important.

Edward Halliwell was a 16th Century English playwright.

Paul Helliwell was the U.S. intel community's drug kingpin since WW2.

"I'm suggesting it was Averell Harriman at Foggy Bottom with Paul Helliwell's drug crew cat's paw."

That Paul Helliwell.

Edited by Cliff Varnell
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...