Die Living isn’t just about exploring the outer limits of what our bodies can do. It’s also about exploring ourselves on the inside. The pliability of our spirits, the edges of our will and, of course, the limits of our minds. It’s why we preach the value of meditation, of deep breathing and of yoga practice.
And few people better exemplified the bounds taken in the examination of the mind than Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann who famously took the world’s first LSD trip… by accident.
Now before we go any further, let’s just recognize that no one here is suggesting you take LSD. No one here is suggesting you don’t take LSD, either. Just sayin’.
Anyway, back to Mr. Hofmann. While working in a Swiss lab in the midst of WW2, Hofmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of LSD through his fingertip while working with the substance. Within an hour, he began feeling an extreme sensitivity to light and upon closing his eyes, “perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.”
Three days later, on April 19, 1943, Hofmann intentionally ingested 250 micrograms of LSD. Known today as “Bicycle Day,” as it was on his bicycle that Hofmann began feeling the effects of the drug, this was the first intentional LSD trip.
He continued to experiment with LSD, taking small doses for the rest of his life and always hoping to find a more medicinal and practical use for the drug. In his memoir, he considered LSD a “sacred drug” which might provide “the possibility of providing material aid to meditation aimed at the mystical experience of a deeper, comprehensive reality.”
Hofmann saw the drug grow in popularity for what he saw as both good and bad. Used successfully as a tool in psychoanalysis, Hofmann considered the drug’s adoption by the 1960’s hippie counterculture as misuse. He recognized the dangers of LSD in an unsupervised environment and worried that casual use would lead to the lessening of serious scientific implementation. Either way, he was angered by the worldwide prohibition of the drug.
Hofmann’s breakthroughs continued well into the twenty-first century when in 2007, Switzerland granted psychotherapist Peter Gasser the ability to perform experiments on and with terminal cancer patients using LSD. Completed in 2011, these were the first applications of LSD in studying human psychology in thirty-five years.
Thanks to his accidental discovery, Albert Hofmann had a paradigm shifting impact on science, human psychology and on an era-defining counter culture.