Summer 1993 Vol. 04, No. 2 So Close Yet So Far
Welcome to the 50th anniversary of Albert Hofmann’s miraculous bicycle ride which led to his discovery of the extraordinary properties of LSD. It was almost equally miraculous that this should have occurred to someone like Albert who was sufficiently intelligent and sufficiently detached, sufficiently courageous and imaginative to realize what he had found. Because many people having had this extraordinary experience would have undoubtedly gone away and tried to forget it as quickly as possible. Albert didn’t do that. So this is a special day for you all to contemplate because unfortunately over the years people have in fact tried to forget it, and it isn’t really very forgettable.
Aldous Huxley and I some years later were starting what we hoped to become studies with mescaline and we had to find some suitable words for this. He suggested a very beautiful word "phanerothyme." He sent me a little note – "To make this mundane world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme." I thought that phanerothyme was beautiful but probably an incomprehensible word and I tried to find an easier one. I came up with this – "To fall in hell or soar angelic, you’ll need a pinch of psychedelic." And this was how that psychedelic, "mind manifesting", a very neutral word, how it came up.
Now psychedelics we found fairly quickly had great benefits to people in certain conditions, particularly those suffering from alcohol addiction, who require, as most of us probably do but they need it all the more, that is an opportunity to consider what has been happening to them and to see its many possibilities. Now, obviously, how to use this becomes a major issue. Aldous Huxley particularly tried to get hold of funds to do this and unfortunately we failed. This led him to say that he would never buy a Ford again but would in the future only buy Chevys. I don’t think he stuck to this but he felt that the Foundation involved could have, it wasn’t expensive, we could get people to do it, and unfortunately it failed.
So fifty years later you are in a sense still confronting the difficulties that arose from trying to storm the heights without finding out what one was doing, in other words undertaking badly planned mountainous expeditions. As usually happens with badly planned expeditions, they fail. So I hope that in your [bicycle] rides, which I believe that you are going to be taking around San Francisco, that you will think about this and find some way to not, as I am afraid has happened in the past, to snatch defeat from the jaws from victory but to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Good wishes to you in your meeting. Do all you can to forward the cause that Albert took up so bravely and which he has always fully understood its many implications. And there are many more still to be understood. So good luck to you all… How’s that?