Albert Hofmann Departs

Vale Albert Hofmann.

LSD wanted to tell me something. It gave me an inner joy, an open mindedness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation.

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Incredibly sad news today, with the passing of Albert Hofmann, "the father of LSD", aged 102. Unconfirmed reports had been swirling for a few hours, but MAPS have just posted official confirmation on their website:

Albert Hofmann, the father of LSD, passed away at 9AM CEST on Tuesday April 29, 2008 at his home in Basel, Switzerland. Cause of death was a heart attack; two caretakers were there with him at the time. MAPS President Rick Doblin said, "[Albert and I] spoke on the phone the day after the Basel conference and he was happy and fulfilled. He'd seen the renewal of LSD psychotherapy research with his own eyes, as had [his wife] Anita. I said that I looked forward to discussing the results of the study with him in about a year and a half and he laughed and said he'd try to help the research however he could, either from this side or "the other side".

Hofmann's shadow looms large over the 20th century, with his synthesis of the psychedelic compound Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) not only inspiring the counter-culture of the 1960s, but also breakthroughs and cutting edge creations by scientists, technology pioneers, musicians and artists: DNA researchers Francis Crick and Kary Mullis are said to have been inspired by their encounters with the compound, Apple pioneer Steve Jobs once described taking LSD as "one of the two or three most important things" he ever did, musicians from the Beatles onwards were heavily affected by the new vistas of creativity they experienced under the influence of the drug, and Alex Grey (among many others) brought the psychedelic realms to life after being inspired by Hofmann's "problem child". Stop to really think about the events that followed from Hofmann's "peculiar presentiment" and infamous bicycle ride, and you soon realise what an impact the man made upon human history.

Beyond discovering a strange compound and setting historic wheels in motion though, Hofmann was - quite simply - a gentleman. A quiet, inspired, creative and intelligent man, Albert Hofmann was held in high regard by all that met him and spoke with wisdom on the use and abuse of entheogenic compounds. He always maintained that LSD, and other psychedelic compounds, could be powerful allies if used correctly, despairing at the indiscriminate usage of the drug simply for 'fun'. You can read his book LSD: My Problem Child online, which offers some excellent insights into the history of his discovery, and his thoughts on how LSD should be utilised.

In addition to his discovery of LSD, he was also the first to synthesize psilocybin, and also researched numerous other aspects of humanity's deep historical involvement with psychedelics, from speculation on their use in the ancient mysteries at Eleusis, through to investigation of Salvia divinorum and Ololiuqui in the Americas. Hofmann was also credited with other important medicinal discoveries throughout his career.

A giant of history; a gentleman. Let's hope that he's continuing his exploration of those realms still.

Daily Grail Heaven: the JSE Motherlode!!

Huge news: I mentioned last week that the website of the Society for Scientific Exploration had posted two volumes of the most excellent Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE) online as PDF downloads. Seems I jumped the gun a little - if you head to the JSE website now, you'll find that they have actually made *all* volumes from 1987 to 2006 available as free PDF downloads. That's 20 volumes/70 issues of JSE (!!!) - absolutely the most important journal for ideas on the edge of science and knowledge.

A short and general list of topics covered (in a scientific manner) in the 20,000 or so pages now available: remote viewing, earth lights, ball lightning, reincarnation, telepathy, psychokinesis, ufology, the afterlife, crop circles, fringe archaeology, biofields, 'orbs', intelligent design, precognition, poltergeists, earthquake phenomena and cryptozoology. The list of contributors is a who's who of 'alternative research', and in each volume there's also commentaries, letters to the editor, and reviews of the most interesting books on these strange and wonderful topics. There is literally so much content in these 20 volumes that I think we should perhaps post and discuss one each month here on TDG. Can you tell I'm very excited?

To repay the favour to the SSE for this wonderful resource, and make sure you have the absolute latest issue of JSE as a hardcopy in your hands, you can subscribe to the journal (see the bottom of the page) - or alternatively, be aware that joining the SSE means that you get complimentary issues anyhow, so you may find that worthwhile as well.

Speaking of the latest issue of JSE: it's a special release celebrating the life and research of reincarnation investigator Dr Ian Stevenson. Annalisa Ventola has a write-up of the content in the issue. (Incidentally, Annalisa also notes that the Society for Scientific Exploration will be holding their 27th annual general meeting in Boulder, Colorado at the end of June.)

Get cracking on those JSE downloads - you're looking at about a gigabyte to download them all...

Tuesday Blogscan 29-04-2008

A strange assortment to get you through the week...

Enjoy!

News Briefs 29-04-2008

Uh, where'd all my feeds go when I need them?

Thanks Kat

Quote of the Day:

One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious

C.G. Jung, Alchemical Studies

The Eager Dead

Over one hundred years ago, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) - with members from the top tiers of science - embarked on a search for evidence of an afterlife. Although largely forgotten by the public today, some of their research findings were compelling. Many people point to the sittings with mediums Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborne Leonard, as the most convincing. However, those who have studied the SPR's research in depth also would probably raise another candidate: the 'cross correspondences'.

[T]he Cross-Correspondences were fragments of information that came through different mediums and which in themselves meant nothing. However, when pieced together they formed coherent messages. The objective was for the communicating spirits to demonstrate that the messages were not coming from the conscious or subconscious of a single medium, or by means of telepathy from another human, or from some cosmic memory bank. It was as if the spirit communicators devised a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered in various parts of the world.

The obscurity of the cross correspondences is no doubt due to the sheer complexity of the communications and 'puzzles', which most lay readers don't have time for. However, a recent book by Professor Archie E. Roy may offer the best insights yet. Titled The Eager Dead (Amazon US and UK, I've now heard from numerous people, in the know, who consider it a wonderful exposition of this difficult topic.

One of those is Michael Tymn, an expert in the history of psychical research (and who contributed a fascinating article to Darklore Volume 1. Mike wrote a glowing review of the book, commenting that not only did it discuss the scientific aspect, but also offered human insights into the relationships between the dead and living people involved. Filip Coppens too has just this week posted an article to his website about the cross correspondences, inspired by his reading of The Eager Dead. Both articles give an excellent overview of the case, so check them out when you get the chance. Better still, pick yourself up a copy of The Eager Dead.

News Briefs 28-04-2008

There are worlds of mysteries yet to be solved. So let's get to it.

Quote of the Day:

A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You'll read them -- or they'll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.

Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There are giants that will walk by, though sound asleep. There are things that are theorems and things that are rags; they'll go by like Euclid, arm in arm with the spirit of anarchy. Here and there will flit little harlots. Many are clowns. But many are of the highest respectability. Some are assassins. There are pale stenches and gaunt superstitions and mere shadows and lively malices: whims and amiabilities. The naive and the pedantic and the bizarre and the grotesque and the sincere and the insincere, the profound and the puerile.

Charles Fort

Revisiting the Alien

Here's an interesting story about a film-maker revisiting a famous 'alien encounter' incident, the Ariel School sighting, fourteen years later:

American film maker Randall Nickerson is currently visiting southern Africa to make a documentary that follows up an incident that happened at the Ariel School in Ruwa, Zimbabwe, in 1994, when 62 children aged between eight and 12 reported seeing a UFO and “strange beings” during their morning break.

Those children are now young adults scattered around the globe. Nickerson is tracking them down and interviewing them about the experience. “Their stories have not changed at all,” he says. “Not what you would expect if they had made it all up.”

The story fills in some details as to the bizarre nature of the incident, but for those interested in learning more I've also posted a short video segment about the sighting, including the involvement of famed 'alien abduction' researcher Dr John Mack. Speaking of the latter, you can also find an article referencing the sighting on the website of the John E. Mack Institute: "Exploring African and Other Alien Encounters", by Dominique Callimanopulos.

Google Video also has footage of African ufologist, the late Cynthia Hind, interviewing some of the children about the details of the sighting. A fascinating case, and a really interesting twist to revisit these witnesses as adults and hear what they have to say now. Thanks Will for the heads up.

News Briefs 25-04-2008

Klaatu barada nikto (just in case)…

Quote of the Day:

“A working prophet is able to see deeper than most of us into the human soul. Orwell in 1948 understood that despite the Axis defeat, the will to fascism had not gone away… the irresistible human addictions to power were already long in place… the means of surveillance in Winston Smith’s era are primitive next to the wonders of computer technology… most notably the Internet.”

Thomas Pynchon, foreword to ‘1984’

Psychic Regulators, Mount Up!

An interesting development in the UK with the British government announcing that 'spiritual services' will now be included in consumer protection laws, a move which has led to concerns from those who earn their money from such pursuits. Whereas with the previous legislation the onus was on prosecutors to prove fraudulent behaviour, under consumer protection laws psychics and the like may be required to show their abilities are genuine:

The Government says the regulations target "misleading or aggressive" activities and "will not affect the supply of spiritualistic services in themselves".

But many mystics fear they could be sued by customers unhappy with the service they have received, or be forced to prove in court they really have otherworldly powers. Some envision having to make customers sign a waiver before a seance or a sitting. Even more gallingly, they fear they might have to advertise that their services are for entertainment purposes only.

Skeptic Ben Goldacre has additional comment in his most recent Bad Science column, and makes some good points (although I disagree with his summation of psychics in general). Most importantly, how such a law is going to be policed, considering that there currently is no set test for mediumship:

With my tiny brain, I can't see how anyone is going to rationally police this kind of thing, given that the whole industry is, by definition, based on nonsense, and it's plainly undesirable to ban things simply because they're stupid...

...If we're going to be paternalistic about the credulous, you might hope we start with Carol Vorderman's high interest "loan consolidation" adverts before we get to Cilla Black's £1.50 a minute Psychic Hotline service. Although I bet they make a great pair.

The latter point is a good one as well. And if 'psychic' statements are to be considered under consumer protection, what about similar statements (about the future, wellbeing etc) by religious authorities?

All the same, regulation of some description may be just what the doctor ordered - and some psychics agree. It's quite obvious that there are large numbers of outright frauds involved (while skeptics might say "all" rather than "large numbers", I've seen enough in my time to still find some merit in the field). To be really optimistic, perhaps it could even result in more attention being paid to some sort of scientific testing or certification - though in reality I doubt that this new legislation will be policed with much force...rather simply used as necessary for egregious infringements.

Will be interesting to watch in any case. Certainly, it may focus some attention on some very grey areas as to what should constitute 'genuine' psychic ability...

News Briefs 24-04-2008

In some village in La Mancha, whose name I do not care to recall…

Quote of the Day:

“The pen is the tongue of the soul; as are the thoughts engendered there, so will be the things written.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra