Be Leery Of The Leary [Update]

 

2015 leary sarandon

There has been a lot of press this year about Susan Sarandon’s ceremonial procession to lead Timothy Leary’s ashes to the Totem of Confessions, where they were placed underneath the Masturbating Nun (supposedly locked up to censor protect children from offensive art).

Now, further details are coming out. Most of the people in the parade partook of the “sacrament”, which meant drinking the ashes. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if some LSD was mixed into this magic punch.

A number of videos of her speech have been posted online, and covered in mainstream publications like the Daily Mail – but strangely most of them cut the video before she started talking about the CIA. This one contains the full speech, and some analysis about the broader occult context behind it:

Sarandon says “If anyone doesn’t know who Timothy Leary is and you’ve taken acid, you should be ashamed of yourself…he was the leader of the whole thing to take acid away from the CIA, and make it a means of exploration for everybody”.

After the Burn, Sarandon went on the talk show circuit to promote the ritual. Media coverage included People, Hollywood Reporter, Vogue, Entertainment Weekly.

 

She told Jimmy Kimmel: “Burning Man is a celebration in the desert of all different kinds of people. It’s about self reliance, it’s about acceptance, it seems to be about drugs and nudity – there’s a lot of that too. A lot of art all over the place. This year I had a mission, which was to take Timothy Leary’s ashes, which I had some of, and take them to a chapel…we did drink them”.

Who gave Susan this mission? And who gave Timothy Leary – the man who wrote the CIA’s entrance exam, known as “The Leary”his mission?

Leary said “at least 80% of the people I ever worked with were part of the CIA”. He described the “Liberal CIA” as “the best mafia you can deal with in the Twentieth Century”. He gave “total credit” to the CIA for creating the entire counter-culture movement.

John Lennon also said “we must remember to thank the CIA and the Army for giving us LSD” in his last interview. He was assassinated by a mind-controlled patsy in front of an ex-CIA doorman a few days later.

Timothy Leary and Billy Mellon Hitchcock at the Millbrook Estate

Timothy Leary and Billy Mellon Hitchcock at the Millbrook Estate

In fact it was British agent Aldous Huxley who tasked Leary with forming an “LSD Illuminati” to spread the drug. He did this with the help of members the powerful Mellon banking family, who provided a castle for his cult and helped fund global drug distribution networks after LSD was made illegal in 1966. At that point the CIA was the biggest purchaser of LSD in the world, having bought an estimated 100-250 million trips, or a third of all the acid ever manufactured, from Sandoz in Switzerland – owned by another powerful banking family, the Warburgs.

Huxley’s goal was to use drugs to create painless concentration camps for entire societies. His brother Julian is generally regarded as the father of transhumanism.

Today's Titans of Transhumanism - now called ABC.XYZ

Today’s Titans of Transhumanism – now called ABC.XYZ

Leary’s famous catchphrase “tune in, turn on, drop out” was actually developed on Madison Avenue by marketing guru philosopher Marshall McLuhan.

There are some interesting parallels between the values of the hippies in the Sixties, who thought they were changing the world with drugs and free love, and today’s socially engineered Burners, who think they are changing the world with “drugs and nudity”, as Sarandon puts it.

Robert Anton Wilson said “perhaps the final secret of the Illuminati is you don’t know you’re a member until it’s too late to get out”sound familiar, Burners?

Nothing to see here, move along…and be sure to worship the prophets you’re told to.

sarandon kimmel

Sarandon on Jimmy Kimmel live:

The official mini-documentary from Future Eyes TV:

“America is going to become a Burning Man country”


 

[Update 9/22/15 5:09pm PST]

This occult ritual-within-an-occult ritual was promoted in Burning Man’s official newsletter The Jackrabbit Speaks V19#35, the week before the event started. As usual, not all of the information coming from this source was accurate. In particular, they got the details of his most famous catch-phrase wrong.


 

Burning Man 2015: Final Resting Place of Timothy Leary

Date: Thursday, September 3

Time and Locations:

6:00 pm – Gathering at Cirque Gitane (8:15 & Geek)

6:30 pm – Art Car Procession to the Man.

7:00 pm – Join forces with the Billion Bunny March Against Humanity.

7:30 pm – Marching Band, Art Car, Kazoo processional to Totem of Confessions. Electric Kool-Aid party

Lauren writes:

“One of the most famous countercultural icons of the 1960s, Timothy Leary, was among a small group of renowned social scientists who abandoned traditional Western methodologies for the sacred culture of Tibetan Buddhism in an effort to pursue mystical revelation and personal liberation. As an advocate of guided meditation through hallucinogenic drug use, Leary initiated a cultural renaissance with his ‘turn off, tune in, drop out’ mantra. After his death in 1996, several grams of Leary’s ashes were launched into space aboard a Pegasus rocket. The rest of his ashes were dispersed amongst loved ones, some of which are making their way to the playa this year through Cirque Gitane, an intergalactic travel camp located at 8:15 & Geek.

On Thursday at sundown, Cirque Gitane will encourage everyone on the playa to be a part of a Timothy Leary extravaganza. This celebration of Leary’s life will turn into an elaborate funeral procession that will travel through the playa to veteran artist Michael Garlington’s ‘Totem of Confessions’ on the 3:00 Promenade and 1600 feet from the Man.

The march will culminate with the ashes being placed inside the ‘Totem of Confessions,’ and when the Totem is burned, the ashes will burn with it. Burning Man will be one of the final resting places of this exceptional man, who President Richard Nixon called ‘the most dangerous man in America’. Leary taught people to tap into the wisdom of indigenous cultures and to treat the natural world as an extension of themselves.”

(Photo by Philip H. Bailey, CC-BY-SA)

Can LSD Make You A Billionaire?

"Shitty Acid", by artist Brian Lewis Saunders

“Shitty Acid” by Brian Lewis Saunders

Who wants to be a billionaire?

Just eat acid. That’s all you gotta do. If you believe CNN, that is…

Cult leader Lifestyle Guru Tim Ferriss shares his thoughts on using drugs to expand consciousness as an acceptable way for the tech industry to solve problems.

“using smart drugs is like pouring gasoline on the fire. Hallucinogens used very very intelligently help you decide where to put the fire”

Silicon Valley are now promoting hallucinogenic drugs on CNN. Is it time to legalize yet?

“psychedelics have a rich history in Silicon Valley. One of the most iconic users? Steve Jobs” 

Other iconic users include Douglas Englebart (inventor of the mouse and desktop interface), John Gilmore (co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the MAPS association for psychedelic studies), and Stewart Brand (founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and the WELL).

The Billboard Liberation Front was one of the San Francisco groups that seeded Burning Man

The Billboard Liberation Front was one of the San Francisco groups that fed into the early Burning Man. This art piece was produced by John Gilmore, and “dropped” in 1995

Author Ryan Grim sees Burning Man as the latest incarnation of Silicon Valley’s desire to be inspired by hallucinogens.

wired 1996Burning Man co-founder Danger Ranger, contributed to Mondo 2000’s Berkeley party house and got wired with WIRED. He attributes hanging around with this crowd (with their Stanford chemistry lab supply) as providing valuable “connections” to Burning Man that brought the tech crowd in to join up with the Cacophony Society’s Merry Pranksters. WIRED beat the drum for the tech industry with their Bruce Sterling cover story in 1996. Danger Ranger joined the Burning Man Project in 1990, prior to that with John Law he was a co-founder of the Cacophony Society, which grew out of their earlier involvement in the Suicide Club, which also begat the BLF. The Billboard Liberation Front “dropped LSD” in 1995, sponsored by Gilmore as the project’s Creative Director. First a giant neon ad for LSD, next to the freeway, ironically high-jacked by art guerilla cyber punks; next, a cover story on WIRED with a neon glowing Burning Man and a Mad Max-themed video from Dr Dre.

Even LSD mega-promoter Timothy Leary got all Cyberdelic, saying that the PC is the LSD of the 1990’s and admonishing Bohemians to turn on, boot up, jack in“. Presumably, in the 21st century the LSD of the Teenies is going to be Oculus Rift and the Burner-built Microsoft Holo Lens, where you can plug into Burner-built Second Life to attend Burning Man virtually at their Burn2 Regional.

From Wikipedia:

cyber punk maskTimothy Leary, an advocate of psychedelic drug use who became a cult figure of the hippies in the 1960s, reemerged in the 1980s as a spokesperson of the cyberdelic counterculture, whose adherents called themselves “cyberpunks”, and became one of the most philosophical promoters of personal computers (PC), the Internet, and immersive virtual reality…


In contrast to the hippies of the 1960s who were decidedly anti-science and anti-technology, the cyberpunks of the 1980s and 1990s ecstatically embraced technology and the hacker ethic. They believed that high technology (and smart drugs) could help human beings overcome all limits, that it could liberate them from authority and even enable them to transcend space, time, and body. They often expressed their ethos and aesthetics through cyberart and reality hacking.

steampunk mask 2R. U. Sirius, co-founder and original editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000 magazine, became the most prominent promoter of the cyberpunk ideology, whose adherents were pioneers in the IT industry of Silicon Valley and the West Coast of the United States 

io9 has a list of 10 great inventors who took drugs. At least 6 of the 10 were trippers:

6. Steve Jobs — LSD
LSD was a big deal for Steve Jobs. How big? Evidently, Jobs believed that experimenting with LSD in the 1960s was “one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.” What’s more, he felt that there were parts of him that the people he knew and worked with could not understand, simply because they hadn’t had a go at psychedelics. This latter sentiment also comes through in his recently-published biography, wherein Jobs goes so far as to associate what he interpreted as Bill Gates’ dearth of imagination with a lack of psychedelic experimentation:

“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology. He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”

“He’d be a broader guy,” Jobs says about Gates, “if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger.”

5. Bill Gates — LSD
Which is funny, because Bill Gates totally did experiment with LSD, though an excerpt from a 1994 interview with Playboy reveals he was much less open about it than Jobs:

PLAYBOY: Ever take LSD?
GATES: My errant youth ended a long time ago.
PLAYBOY: What does that mean?
GATES: That means there were things I did under the age of 25 that I ended up not doing subsequently.
PLAYBOY: One LSD story involved you staring at a table and thinking the corner was going to plunge into your eye.
GATES: [Smiles]
PLAYBOY: Ah, a glimmer of recognition.
GATES: That was on the other side of that boundary. The young mind can deal with certain kinds of gooping around that I don’t think at this age I could. I don’t think you’re as capable of handling lack of sleep or whatever challenges you throw at your body as you get older. However, I never missed a day of work.

Francis Crick — LSD

Francis Crick — of the DNA-structure discovering Watson, Crick, and Franklin — reportedly told numerous friends and colleagues about his LSD experimentation during the time he spent working to determine the molecular structure that houses all life’s information.

In fact, in a 2004 interview, Gerrod Harker recalls talking with Dick Kemp — a close friend of Crick’s — about LSD use among Cambridge academics, and tells the Daily Mail that the University’s researchers often used LSD in small amounts as “a thinking tool.” Evidently, Crick at one point told Kemp that he had actually “perceived the double-helix shape while on LSD.” 

Read the full list at io9.com.

As the Guardian points out, many people tried acid, but only one became Steve Jobs. Similarly, although many Burners take acid, less than a tenth of one percent are Billionaire Burners.

Taking LSD can make you lose your mind, like Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett who was a frequent acid tripper, and never recovered from one particularly large dose. In her brief article Operation Chaos, Mae B Russell  suggests that rather than coincidence, this may have been a deliberately engineered capability of the drug which was developed during World War II as a chemical weapon. LSD was researched by the military/intelligence complex for many decades, distributed for in hundreds of millions of doses (often gifted), and synthesized into many more variants than just “LSD-25”.

The whole acid scene began in Silicon Valley, and disseminated out of the Bay Area into Hollywood and then the rest of the world. How many of San Francisco’s Summer of Love Sixties hippies became billionaires? There are definitely a few. For every self-made billionaire in the Bay that did drop acid, there are many more who did not. Acid cannot make you a billionaire any more than going to Burning Man can make you a billionaire.

Mondo 2000’s original cyberpunk R U Sirious now looks back on the cyberdelic revolution rather ruefully:

Everything from Wetware to Techno Erotic Paganism image: Gord Fynes/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Everything from Wetware to Techno Erotic Paganism image: Gord Fynes/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Anybody who doesn’t believe that we’re trapped hasn’t taken a good look around. We’re trapped in a sort of mutating multinational corporate oligarchy that’s not about to go away. We’re trapped by the limitations of our species. We’re trapped in time. At the same time identity, politics, and ethics have long turned liquid. […] Cyberculture (a meme that I’m at least partly responsible for generating, incidentally) has emerged as a gleeful apologist for this kill-the-poor trajectory of the Republican revolution. You find it all over Wired – this mix of chaos theory and biological modeling that is somehow interpreted as scientific proof of the need to devolve and decentralize the social welfare state while also deregulating and empowering the powerful, autocratic, multinational corporations. You’ve basically got the breakdown of nation states into global economies simultaneously with the atomization of individuals or their balkanization into disconnected sub-groups, because digital technology conflates space while decentralizing communication and attention. The result is a clear playing field for a mutating corporate oligarchy, which is what we have. I mean, people think it’s really liberating because the old industrial ruling class has been liquefied and it’s possible for young players to amass extraordinary instant dynasties. But it’s savage and inhuman. Maybe the wired elite think that’s hip. But then don’t go around crying about crime in the streets or pretending to be concerned with ethics

For a true “rich history of psychedelics in Silicon Valley”, a good introduction is John Markoff’s “deliciously scandalous” book What The Dormouse Said:

markoff dormousetechnology never happens in a vacuum. The book was an effort to try to pin down how personal computing first emerged around the Stanford campus at two laboratories in the 1960’s: one was run by John McCarthy, and was called the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; and the other was run by Doug Engelbart and known as the Augmentation Research Center or the Augmented Human Intellect Research Center. Before there was Xerox PARC, which most people know about, and before the two Steves (Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak) in the garage creating the Apple computer, many of the technologies that became the personal computer were developed in these two laboratories on either side of the Stanford campus during the 1960’s. I tried to capture that work and the environment in which it took place, which was deeply influenced by the 1960’s counterculture and by the anti-war movement. [Source: Ubiquity]

image: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Kordite/Flickr (Creative Commons)

image: Kordite/Flickr (Creative Commons)

Entheogens and Etymology

BurningMan_Thorn

Set, and Setting

Over the weekend we brought you a story: “What’s In My Baggie?”, which mentioned cutting-edge designer drugs that were being handed out at the festival.

As well as “what’s in your baggie”, you should be aware of “who’s really dosing you”…and the power of rhetoric and suggestion to influence impressionable young minds.

Jan Irvin of Gnostic Media has published an article exposing how the origins of the psychedelic movement are different from what most of the people taking hallucinogenic drugs believe:

gnostic mediaEntheogens: What’s In A Name?

A lot of work has gone into this 58-page document, which is worth reading in its entirety. For those who don’t have time for that, let me try to extract the most relevant parts for Burners:

Today there are many names for drug substances that we commonly refer to as “hallucinogens,” “psychedelics,” “psychoactives,” or “entheogens,” et al. But it hasn’t always been that way. The study of the history and etymology of the words for these fascinating substances takes us, surprisingly, right into the heart of military intelligence, and what became the CIA’s infamous MKULTRA mind control program, and reveals how the names themselves were used in marketing these substances to the public, and especially to the youth and countercultures

…‘Set and setting’ is the key component to suggestibility with these substances, and through studying the etymology and history of these words we saw ‘neologisms’ – or new words, psychedelic and entheogen, that were used for marketing purposes and to “seed” the idea of the type of experience one should have while under their influence: If you told them it mimicked psychosis, it mimicked psychosis. If you told them it was mind manifesting, they had a mind‐expanding experience. And if you told them it was a religious experience, well, they just might have a religious experience.

…directly targeting youth to encourage their drug use and destructive behavior: “if you want to bring about mutations in a species, work with the young.”   

What is beginning to become apparent is that a destruction of the self is being sold as a method of so-called “spiritual progress” and “enlightenment” by people who are…social/public relations experts.

And contrary to common understanding, we saw the prohibition of drugs as a tool of drug use enticement and control for rebellious youth to consume these substances

…we saw the targeting of: “artists, writers, poets, jazz musicians, elegant courtesans,  painters, rich bohemians…That’s how everything of culture and beauty and philosophic freedom  has been passed on.”
So it appears that Huxley’s idea of beauty means the degradation of society.  You destroy one part (the masses) to elevate the other (the elite) – which does not seem able to elevate itself on its own. 

…how could creating hippies be a CIA tactic and how would such a tactic affect them?  
If we consider that by having people “navel gaze” and focus on psychedelics as mind expansion, as opposed to real solutions to problems like social stratification, dumbing us down, and the like, then it distracts them from focusing on these real problems as the source of all of society’s ills, and more importantly, taking action to change them

Read the entire paper here. A long read but worth it;  meticulously researched and cogently argued.

What a “set and setting” is provided, by this self-service cult in the desert, worshipping The Man.

can you pass the acid test“What we do literally is we take peoples’ sense of reality, and we break it apart. Burning Man is a transformation engine. It has hardware and it has software. You can adjust it and tweak it, and we’ve done that. We take people out to this vast, dry place – nowhere, very harsh conditions – and it strips away their luggage. The things that they had brought with them, the idea of who they thought they were. And it puts them in a community setting where they have to connect with each other. It puts them in this place where anything is possible. In doing so, it breaks the old reality, and it enables them to realize that you can create your own reality, you can do anything.”

Danger Ranger, Burning Man founder

“We’re a self-service cult. You wash your own brain”

Larry Harvey, Burning Man founder.

Even when The Man is burned to a cinder, he is re-born anew: an indestructible symbol of organizing our society.

We keep getting told “Burning Man is more than just a festival”. But exactly what it is, then, is never really defined. It’s up to each Burner to get out of it what they want. For many, Gifting is its own reward. An environment free from commercial transactions was a big drawcard, used to enlist an army of volunteer workers who’ve been used to create a highly lucrative brand. Lately, some seem to see TTITD as ripe for a greater level of commercial exploitation – and see those who’ve labored with love to make it what it is as standing in the way of what it could be. From the statements of the founders, changing people’s personalities and using Burning Man to change the world seem to be the major priority, more so than loyalty to their citizens or even profits for themselves.

For further consideration, I also highly recommend Jan’s excellent paper with Joe Atwill: Manufacturing the Deadhead: A Product of Social Engineering

BMOrg have said repeatedly that they consider themselves to be social engineers. Many Burners are Deadheads, and vice versa.

I give the CIA a total credit for sponsoring and initiating the entire consciousness‐movement counterculture events of the 1960s… the CIA funded and supported and encouraged hundreds of young psychologists to experiment with this drug. The fallout from that was that the young psychiatrists started taking it themselves discovering that it was an intelligence enhancing, intelligence raising experience.

~ Timothy Leary

 

image: APictureOfIt

image: APictureOfIt

Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key — it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide‐books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible.

—Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert: The
Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead

what the Russians have done is to stimulate the native peoples to undertake a native revival while they themselves admire the resulting dance festivals and other exhibitions of native culture, literature, poetry, music and so on…The system gets overweighed until some compensatory machinery is developed and then the revival of native arts, literature, etc., becomes a weapon for use against the  white man…

The findings of this experiment support very strongly the conclusion that it is very important to foster spectatorship among the superiors and exhibitionism among the inferiors

– Gregory Bateson

 

Some related stories from Burners.Me:

Brainwashing – the New Billionaire Obsession

Creating God in the Digital Age

Soma Showcases Burner Culture on the Embarcadero

Set

A Temple of Set

What’s In My Baggie?

Be careful Burners. That Molly might be Bath Salts.

“Molly is the moonshine of today”. As the documentary shows, what people think they’re taking, may not be what they’re really consuming at all.

need lsdA recent Reddit thread discussed how a Burner thought she was taking a lazy 3 hits of LSD at once, but it turned out to be designer drug 2C-C-NBOMe – an invention of the late Burner/Bohemian Grover Sasha Shulgin. She flipped out big time, and had to be restrained to a stretcher and treated at the medical tent. According to Reddit, BMOrg had “compassionate and academic medical staff on hand, with a chromatograph mass spectrometer no less”. They were able to analyze was in the drugs, which led to a medical paper being written for the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

Case Report: A 24 yo female was found to be tachycardic, tachypneic and with agitated delirium after drinking wine, smoking marijuana and ingesting 3 blotter paper doses of what she thought was lysergic acid diethylamide. She thought she was being attacked by invisible assailants. She was transported from her campsite to an on-site field hospital by emergency medical personnel, where she was treated with intravenous normal saline and lorazepam with complete recovery within 10 hours. Leftover blotter paper samples were analyzed using Agilent Liquid Chromatograph-Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometer (LC1200-TOF/MS 6230). The primary compound detected was 2C-C-NBOMe, with a smaller amount of 2C-I-NBOMe also present…

just lying around in the Medical Tent.

just lying around in the Medical Tent?

Use of designer drugs is increasing, as evidenced by the well-documented rise of synthetic cannabinoids (herbal incense, spice, K2) and synthetic cathinones (bath salts) in Europe and the United States, the pervasiveness of methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in pop culture, and the constant detection of novel compounds with high resolution mass spectrometry techniques. The 2C class of psychedelic phenethylamines was first synthesized by Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin in the 1970s and 1980s. They are 5HT2 receptor agonists with variable receptor activity. Although 2C-I and 2C-B are both 5HT2A receptor agonists, 2C-I also has a high affinity to 5HT2C). Sold as “research chemicals”…

image: Pinterest

image: Pinterest

A 24-year-old Caucasian female with no significant past medical history was screaming in her tent while camping at Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA. She was agitated and confused, under the impression that she was being attacked. On initial evaluation, her HR was 140 bpm with RR 32 per minute. Her pupils were dilated to 5 mm and her skin was moist and hot to the touch. She was not oriented to person, place or time. Per her boyfriend, earlier that evening she drank wine and smoked marijuana. Thirty minutes prior to evaluation, she ingested 3 doses of “acid” on blotter paper. She had taken acid (lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD) many times in the past without adverse effect. After brief assessment, paramedics physically restrained her to a gurney and transported her via ambulance to the on-site field hospital. Overnight, she was treated with intravenous normal saline boluses and 2 mg intravenous lorazepam, making a full recovery within 10 hours. The following day, she had complete amnesia to the events that had transpired and was otherwise asymptomatic. Seven other people had ingested single doses from the same blotter paper that evening, but none had similar adverse effects. No one had taken more than one dose. All users had received the drug for free from one supplier. A leftover drug sample was obtained from the supplying party, who had obtained it directly from the producer and was under the impression that it was “25C,” telling the patient that the drug was not acid, but “like acid.”

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine Volume issue 2014 – The electric Kool-Aid NBOMe test

However hardcore you think you are, it’s never a good idea to triple-drop. Especially with something you’ve never done before. Triple the drugs doesn’t mean triple the fun. “But they said it was like acid, I’ve done acid before” – that’s not how drugs work. Maybe if they were decriminalized and regulated, all acid would be the same – but even then “this is like acid”, is not the same as “this new thing you’ve never tried is identical to something else you’ve done before”.

People are handing out free designer drugs at Burning Man, and Burners are getting greedy, and getting into trouble. Who wants to go to a party, and end up as a case study in a medical journal? Or beating off in the cop shop?

Although they say “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, I think “know what you’re taking before you take three of it” is better. Safety trumps politeness. Dancesafe sell testing kits here.

Deep History of Drugs

Benjamin Breen at The Appendix has written this fascinating overview of the scientific discovery of illicit drugs. It’s concise, rather than comprehensive, but it makes for a good Sunday read.

It skips Ecstasy, which was invented by pharmaceutical giant Merck just before World War I. MDMA was later synthesized and popularized by Burner (and Bohemian Grover) Sasha Shulgin, who passed away in Berkeley this year at the age of 88.

It also misses the “discovery” of Magic Mushrooms by JP Morgan’s PR guy Gordon Wasson; their psycho-active ingredient psilocybin was synthesized by Albert Hoffman, the same chemist who “accidentally discovered” LSD. Both of these substances had actually been around for thousands of years, used in ritual hallucinogenic ceremonies like the Ancient Mystery Rites of Eleusis which Burning Man was based on.


Re-blogged from The Appendix:

Season_2_promo_pic_4

Meiji Meth: the Deep History of Illicit Drugs

“We’re not going to need pseudoephedrine,” Walter White mutters through clenched teeth. “We’re going to make phenylacetone in a tube furnace, then we’re going to use reductive amination to yield methamphetamine.” Chemicals go in, and out come 99.1% pure crystals glittering with the brilliant azure of a New Mexico swimming pool.

The invention of Breaking Bad’s blue meth has become the stuff of television legend, and has even inspired a spate of real world knock-offs. But few know the true origin stories of illicit drugs—for instance, the strange fact that methamphetamine was actually invented in 1890s Japan.

Chemists have been fascinated by recreational drugs for a very long time. Robert Hooke, the short-tempered genius who discovered cells, was also the author of the first academic paper on cannabis. In the fall of 1689, Hooke ducked into a London coffee shop to purchase the drug from an East Indies merchant, and proceeded to test it on an unnamed “Patient.” It was evidently a large dose. “The Patient understands not, nor remembereth any Thing that he seeth, heareth, or doth,” Hooke reported. “Yet he is very merry, and laughs, and sings… and sheweth many odd Tricks.” Hooke observed that the drug eased stomach pains, provoked hunger, and could potentially “prove useful in the Treatment of Lunaticks.”

cannabis

An early depiction of cannabis from Jean Vigier’s Historia das Plantas (1718), originally published in French in 1670.The John Carter Brown Library at Brown University

Hooke also strongly hinted that he’d personally sampled his coffee shop score: the drug “is so well known and experimented by Thousands,” he wrote, that “there is no Cause of Fear, tho’ possibly there may be of Laughter.” (There were good reasons that Hooke’s readers might be afraid of a new drug—this was, after all, a world where pharmacies sold ground up skulls and Egyptian mummies as medicine).

Historians have largely ignored Hooke’s adventures with cannabis, entertaining as they may be. Albert Hoffmann’s accidental discovery of acid, however, is well known. In fact it’s arguably the most famous tale of drug discovery, challenged only by August Kekulé’s famous dream-vision of the benzene molecule as an ouroboros, which preoccupied Thomas Pynchon in Gravity’s Rainbow.

Even LSD, however, has a more obscure prehistory. Roman physicians described a painful disease called the sacred fire (sacer ignis) which by the Middle Ages came to be known as St. Anthony’s Fire—“an ulcerous Eruption, reddish, or mix’d of pale and red,” as one 1714 text put it. Sufferers of this gruesome illness, which could also cause hallucinations, were actually being poisoned by ergot, a fungus that grows on wheat. Several authors, most recently Oliver Sacks in his excellent book Hallucinations, have noted a potential link between ergot poisoning and cases of dancing mania and other forms of mass hysteria in premodern Europe.

ergotism

“The Beggars” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, a painting believed to show victims of ergotism.Wikimedia Commons

By the 1920s, pharmaceutical firms began investigating the compounds in ergot, which showed potential as migraine treatments. A Swiss chemist at the Sandoz Corporation named Albert Hoffman grew especially intrigued, and in November 1938 (the week after Kristallnacht) he synthesized an ergot derivative that would later be dubbed lysergic acid diethalyamide: LSD for short.

It was not until five years later, however, that Hoffman experienced the drug. Immersed in his work, Hoffman accidentally allowed a tiny droplet of LSD to dissolve onto his skin. He thought nothing of it: hardly any drugs are psychoactive in such minute doses. Later that day, however, Hoffmann went home sick, lay on his couch, and

sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.

Three days later, the chemist decided to self-administer what he assumed was a tiny dose to further test the drug’s effects. He took 250 micrograms, which was actually roughly ten times higher than the threshold dose. Within an hour, Hoffman asked his lab assistant to escort him home by bicycle. Cycling through the Swiss countryside, Hoffman was shocked to observe that “everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror.”

By the time he arrived home, Hoffman decided to call a doctor. However, the physician reported no abnormal physical symptoms besides dilated pupils, and Hoffmann began to enjoy himself:

Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals, exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux.

Hoffman awoke the next morning “refreshed, with a clear head,” and with “a sensation of well-being and renewed life.” In an echo of Hooke’s report about his friend’s cannabis experience, which left him “Refreshed…and exceeding hungry,” Hoffman recalled that “Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary pleasure.”

One of the interesting aspects of Hoffman’s story is how detached it was, both temporally and culturally, from the 1960s context with which LSD is often associated today. This delay between the scientific identification and the popular adoption of a drug is a common story—and in no case is it more stark than in the gap between the discovery of meth and its widespread adoption as an illicit street drug. Methamphetamine was synthesized by a middle-aged, respectable Japanese chemist named Nagai Nagayoshi in 1893.

ergotism

An elder statesman of Japanese science and medicine, Nagayoshi Nagai and his wife hosted Albert Einstein in 1923.Wikimedia Commons

A member of the Meiji Japanese elite, Nagayoshi devoted much of his energy to the chemical analysis of traditional Japanese and Chinese medicines using the tools of Western science. In 1885, Nagai isolated the stimulant ephedrine fromEphedra sinica, a plant long used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.

The year before, in July 1884, Sigmund Freud had published his widely-read encomium to the wonders of cocaine, Über Coca. Cocaine was radically more potent than coca leaves, and chemists the world over were on the lookout for other potential wonder drugs. It’s likely that Nagai hoped to work the same magic with ephedra—and in many ways he did. Ephedrine is a mild stimulant, notable nowadays as an ingredient in shady weight-loss supplements and as one of the few drugs historically permitted to Mormons, (although see thisresponse post for an interesting breakdown of the debate over “Mormon tea”).

But in 1893, Nagai blazed a chemical trail that would live in infamy: he used ephedrine to synthesize meth.

As with LSD, it took the world a couple decades to catch on. In 1919, a younger protégé of Nagai named Akira Ogata discovered a new method of synthesizing the crystalline form of the new stimulant, giving the world crystal meth.

It wasn’t until World War II, however, that meth became widespread as a handy tool for keeping tank and bomber crews awake. By 1942, Adolf Hitler was receiving regular IV injections of meth from his physician, Theodor Morell. Two years later the American pharmaceutical company Abbott Laboratories won FDA approval for meth as a prescription treatment for a host of ills ranging from alcoholism to weight gain.

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Ambar: a potent mixture of methamphetamine and phenorbarbital, shown here in a mean-spirited 1964 advertisement that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 1, No. 5385).

The rest is history—by the 1960s, “tweakers” had made meth a byword for deranged drug addicts, and it lost its standing in the scientific and medical communities. Much like heroin, which was originally marketed by Bayer as a companion to aspirin (the company still technically owns the copyright to the name), meth began life as a wonder drug only to segue into a depraved middle age.

It all points to an interesting and unexplored dichotomy in the history of drugs: there’s a huge gap between the inventors of illicit drugs—usually rather austere, cerebral and disciplined—and their consumers.

I’m guessing that Robert Hooke, Nagayoshi Nagai, Albert Hoffman, and Walter White would have a lot to talk about.

This post is part of a larger series. Read the next installment.

Burners.Me:
Burning Man seems tailor-made for the psychedelic movement. Founder and Director Michael Mikel, aka Danger Ranger, used to hang out in a house in the Berkeley hills in the early years, with a bunch of techies from the Mondo 2000/WIRED scene and acid straight from Stanford’s Chemistry Lab, which provided the gear for the original “acid tests”. In a panel discussion with This Is Burning Man author Brian Doherty in July 2013 , Danger Ranger said:
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“I have a connection to Silicon Valley that goes back to the beginning of the personal computer…We were all hanging out a lot, I was meeting people who were from Mondo 2000 which was the pre-cursor of Wired magazine. We were going to parties, I’d go over to their house in Berkeley, they had connections to the Stanford Chemistry Lab, they had drugs that had not been outlawed yet – it was out on the edge, it was really crazy. A lot of the connections came from out of that tech industry because we knew each other and we hung out” [YouTube, from 19:20]

Larry Harvey and Grateful Dead songwriter (and Electronic Frontier Foundation founder) John Perry Barlow gave an interview in London for Tech Crunch last year, where they described the long history of inter-relationships between psychedelic drugs, the counter-culture, and the tech industry, as outlined in John Markoff’s book What the Dormouse Said.

Burning Man takes place on Federal Land, where marijuana is illegal even if you have a medical prescription for it in your home state. Alcohol is illegal for anyone under the age of 21, and cigarettes are an illegal drug if you are younger than 18. Even Ambien, Viagra, and Xanax are illegal if you don’t have a current doctor’s prescription for them.
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Given all that, I’m wondering – have you ever done illegal drugs at Burning Man? This poll is totally anonymous and there is no way to track your vote back to you, you don’t need to provide a name or email address to answer.
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