By Rick Doblin
Published in Google News
Inventions don’t get to pick their inventors, but if they did, LSD couldn’t have picked a better inventor than Albert Hofmann. Albert was already mystically inclined from childhood and was able to appreciate the spiritual and therapeutic potential of LSD even as he also experienced fear of dying and fear of going crazy in the world’s first LSD experience. In the way he lived his life, Albert demonstrated that LSD and the experiences it can generate can be successfully integrated into what many would consider a rather conventional existence, far from revolutionary or counter-culture.
Professionally, Albert was a company man, working at one company, Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, for almost 40 years, retiring in 1971 at age 65. Albert was held in high regard by his peers and invented prescription medicines that made hundreds of millions of dollars for Sandoz.
Albert was a courageous scientist. The reason he was the first person to isolate psilocybin from magic mushrooms is that he was willing to ingest the various fractions that he derived from the mushrooms, so he could determine which ones were active.
Personally, Albert and Anita were married for about 70 years, and he sustained close relationships with his children and grandchildren. Albert had friendships that he nurtured throughout his life. With the attention from the psychedelic community almost entirely focused on Albert as an individual, it was only in preparation for his 100th birthday that I came to understand that Albert’s love for Anita was what sustained him and kept him in this world for so long. Their mutual support for each other was demonstrated by Anita and Albert dying within a little more than 4 months of each other.
Albert showed me a side of their love in 1985, when I was fortunate to be with him when he first tried MDMA, when it was still legal. We were together at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California at a conference devoted to planning how to keep MDMA available as a therapeutic medication, along with Sasha Shulgin, Dave Nichols, Debby Harlow, and Alice Agar. At one point, shortly after Albert felt the full depth of the MDMA experience, he remarked, “Ahh, finally, a drug that I can do with my wife!” He explained that she had only tried LSD once and didn’t have a particularly pleasant experience, which she didn’t want to repeat. However, at age 79, he looked forward to doing MDMA with his 72 year old wife. Now that’s romantic!!
Mentally, Albert remained lucid and insightful to the end. Several weeks before he died, we spoke at length on the phone about the renewal of LSD-assisted psychotherapy research. He even joked about his death, saying that he’d help support our efforts to conduct LSD-assisted psychotherapy research, either from this side or “the other side.” Another example of his mental acuity took place a few days after his 100th birthday, at the conclusion of the LSD Symposium in Basel in 2006. Albert was on stage with all the various presenters, with a long line of people waiting to speak to him. MAPS had just republished his book, LSD- My Problem Child and the project manager for MAPS, Brandy Doyle, wanted to talk with him for the first time. I brought her up to the stage to greet Albert in person. They spoke for a few moments and then Albert turned to me and started discussing some of the items of the contract between us. I was stunned, in the midst of all the energy of the conclusion of the conference, at the age of 100, Albert was clarifying details about the publication of his book!
What seemed missing from some of the obituaries was Albert’s enduring support for the renewal of LSD research and his belief in their spiritual and therapeutic potential.
All MAPS members can take great satisfaction in knowing that Albert lived long enough to see with his own eyes the recent approval of Dr. Peter Gasser’s MAPS-sponsored Swiss LSD/end-of-life anxiety protocol–to become the first study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in over thirty-six years. Albert felt that the renewal of LSD-assisted psychotherapy research was the “fulfillment of my heart’s desire.” It was a pleasure to tell Albert several weeks ago that I looked forward to discussing the final results with him in about a year and a half.
He laughed and said that he’d help anyway he could, either from this side or the other side. Now, he’s on the other side, as it falls to us to shepherd LSD back into legal medical use, spiritual use and use for creativity and personal growth.