Correspondence : Humphrey Osmond

Summer 1993 Vol. 04, No. 2 So Close Yet So Far

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Dear Mr. Doblin,

May 6 was the 50th anniversary of the genesis of Aldous Huxley’s "The Doors of Perception." I have naturally been pondering that May morning in Hollywood. Fifty years is a long time in a human lifetime, but in this history of human experience it is quite brief, and in terms of human evolution it is miniscule.It is fortunate that, at least so far, psychedelics have not had much military appeal, in spite of a brief period during which the war men of several nations hoped to misuse them. The automobile, the aeroplane, nuclear energy and much else owe their rapid evolution to their potential for harm, and that evolution was enormously expensive both in lives and treasure. Nearly all the early aviators died in the first few decades of flight. It was World War I that made the rise of the automobile and the plane possible.

I am glad that in spite of the sluggish and often timid way in which the establishment has approached or failed to approach psychedelics that there are still many who believe, as I do, that they have much to contribute to our well being and survival, as they and the experiences associated with them have done in the past. As Aldous Huxley, Albert Hofmann, and many others have stated repeatedly, these are instruments, sharp instruments, which we have to study so that we can use them for the benefit of all of us.

As it is easy to see, all human artifacts are in much the same category. They can help or harm us depending whether we use or misuse them. In earlier human societies hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of years went by, in the course of which we learnt the social skills necessary to prevent new discoveries from becoming lethal for the discoverers and their descendents. In the last few hundred years, the tempo of discovery has become much quicker and has outstripped our ability to evolve socially and psychologically and especially spiritually to accommodate ourselves to our own inventions. So far our performance looks as if we are bent more on suicide than allowing ourselves to lead a better life and develop what Julian Huxley called "the fulfillment society" and what John Winthrop, possibly prematurely, urged upon his fellow colonists in the Arbella, before they reached Massachusetts Bay, that they would be a "city upon a hill." He told them in his sermon, at sea in 1630, that the "eyes of the world are upon us." Of course they weren’t in 1630. The ‘world’ had no interest in John Winthrop and his little band of Pilgrims.

So all good wishes to you and yours,

Humphrey Osmond