High Times Greats: Howard Stern On Drugs

Though Howard Stern claims to no longer smoke pot and use other illegal drugs, they have always been a favorite subject of his. In 1993, he devoted radio airtime to such pothead guests as David Lee Roth, Richard Belzer, Chip Z’Nuff of Enuff Z’Nuff and Phil Rind of Sacred Reich. Marijuana minstrel David Peel and Mickey “The Pope of Dope” Cezar were longtime Stern regulars. Private Parts, the shock-jock’s bestselling biography, was written with the help of former High Times editor-in-chief Larry “Ratso” Sloman. For the April, 1994 edition of High Times, Steve Bloom compiled a series of blurbs that illustrate Howard Stern’s progressive stance on drugs. In honor of Stern’s birthday January 12, we’re republishing them below.


On The Radio

November 29, 1990
Guests: Mickey “The Pope of Dope” Cezar and David Peel

Cezar: There are people out there suffering, people who are dying who need grass. The government says no. What kind of government is this who doesn’t give a good goddamn what happens to its citizens? To support some laws that to me are unconstitutional, inhuman and unjust…
Stern: So you actually distribute the pot to them free?
Cezar: Some of them, yes. If they can afford, they can pay. If you can’t, well…
Stern: Wow. You really are the Pope. Quickly, I’ll say hello to David Peel. Do you sell marijuana like the Pope?
Peel: I don’t sell it, I sing it.
Stern: Do you wanna sing a song?
Peel [sings]: Free the Pope, free the Pope/ The Pope smokes dope/ God gave him the grass/ The Pope smokes dope…
Stern: I gotta get outta here….

After Cezar and Peel leave and a commercial break.

Stern: Remember that song? Mari-marijuana, mari-marijuana/ We like marijuana, you like marijuana, everyone likes marijuana too/ Up against the wall, motherf-er…. Remember that one?
Jackie Martling: That was the big hit!
Stern: David Peel wrote that, right?
Martling: I know he sang it for years and years on the same street corner.


April 19, 1993
Guest: David Lee Roth

Stern: I know that good pot is four hundred dollars an ounce. So for ten dollars you probably just got a joint!
Roth: It’s the most creative ten dollars I ever spent!
Stern: Hey, normally when you buy ten dollars’ worth of pot you don’t have to do anything, but now all of a sudden that it’s David Lee Roth they could make a whole big deal out of it and really bust his balls for a couple of years.
Roth: Guys, I’m outta here. Have a really good day.
Stern: Didn’t it sound like he was rolling a joint while we were talking? I was almost up before a grand jury one time. I started making some jokes about coke. We don’t even do any drugs. We don’t even go to Washington Square Park and buy pot. I gave all that up like a hundred years ago. So we were talking about it and this DEA guy hears it and goes: OK, let’s get him up before the grand jury, joking is an offense! Jackie, would you ever buy pot in Washington Square Park?
Jackie Martling: You have to be crazy. Of course, he’s probably an old hippie who thinks it’s not a crime.
Stern: Everyone to Jackie who smokes pot is an old hippie.


October 23, 1993
Guest: Phil Rind

Rind: There are a lot of uses for hemp that people aren’t aware of.
Stern: You can put it in a bong. You can put it in brownies. Put it in a hash pipe.
Fred Norris: You can replace fossil fuels.
Stern: You can cure cancer.
Norris: You can build a house with it.
Martling: Smoke your house.
Stern: And you can feed Somalia with it.
Norris: You can take the leaves and fold it like origami.
Martling: What about breast implants?
Stern: Yeah, hemp breast implants. My mother has ’em.
Norris: You can make pot meatloaf.
Rind: Let’s grow hemp and stop cutting down the rainforest for paper. The original Constitution was written on hemp paper.
Stern: That’s convincing Sen. Jesse Helms.
Martling: They have clothes made out of hemp.
Stern: Pot clothes. You can smoke your jacket.
Rind: The first American flag was made out of hemp fiber. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp.
Stern: Du-ude—I wipe with pot. Talk about a stereotype. Not a real good spokesperson. You can get better people. It’s cool if I came out to legalize pot because I don’t even smoke pot. You listen to the guy and go, “Well, he has selfish motivations.”


October 29, 1993
Guest: Richard Belzer

Belzer: I need your advice, Howard— I’ve never smoked marijuana…
Stern: Please! Belzer’s like a marijuana addict. He shoots it! Belzer loves to smoke pot.
Belzer: Say it again, Howard.
Stern: Belzer love to smoke pot. I assume he smokes pot because all he does is talk nine hours a day about pot. So, Belzer says to me: Do you think I should go judge the Cannabis Contest in Canada?
Belzer: No, in Amsterdam, where it’s legal! Should I do it, Howard?
Stern: Do they pay you?
Belzer: They’re flying me and my wife there, five star hotel. See, I’ve never tried it so I figured I’d try it in a country where it’s legal. What do you think?
Stern: Yeah, try it.
Belzer: OK, thanks.
Stern: So you dudes are gonna go over and smoke a bunch of cannabis for three days and try to decide what is the best?
Belzer: What if I cover the event for you?
Stern: Sure, give a call—definitely.
Belzer: We’ll call you from Amsterdam.
Stern: Call in high, after you’ve sampled everything.


December 6, 1993
Guest: Chip Z’Nuff

Stern: High Times magazine sent Chip out to cover the Cannabis Cup. He was a judge. You love weed, right?
Z’Nuff: It’s fun to partake. If you think about it, Howard, there’s like thirty thousand uses for grass.
Stern: I’m for legalizing marijuana. Why pick on those drugs? Valium is legal. You just go to a doctor and get it and overdose on it—what’s the difference? Prozac, all that stuff, so why not marijuana? Who cares? It’s something that grows out of the ground—why not? Go smoke a head of cabbage. I don’t care what you smoke. I don’t really care. I’m not a smoker anymore, but I don’t care. I say anything that calms people down I’m all for, because people are all hyped up. But every time you speak to these guys who dedicate their lives to legalizing marijuana, they go, “Hey dude, you can make rope out of marijuana.” I go, “Dude, don’t we have enough rope in this country?” So anyway, it’s totally legal over there [Holland]?
Z’Nuff: The grass out there is a lot different than here. Everything’s hydroponic.
Stern: You didn’t know Chip is a chemist. Everything is hydroponic, man! Whenever I read all the pot magazines hydroponics is, like, a big thing….


Between The Lines

Howard On Howard: “I would smoke dope and cigarettes up in my bedroom, blowing smoke out the window, while my parents were downstairs thinking I was doing homework…. I love my in-laws. They even smoked pot once with Alison [his first wife] because they wanted to experience what their children were going through…. When Paul McCartney got busted in Japan and imprisoned for grass, I called Tokyo to protest.” —from Private Parts

Jackie “The Joint Man” Martling on Howard: “Howard did everything—pot, LSD, whatever. He stopped slowly. Now he’s down to mineral water and jerking off.”

High Times on Howard: “Back in the early Eighties, Howard was the most irreverent person in the media. Almost no one would talk to him. He was scum. I could relate to him. Now he’s a big deal. He rides around in a limo. Now I can’t relate to him.” —John Holmstrom, Oct. ’90

The post High Times Greats: Howard Stern On Drugs appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Howard Stern On Drugs

Though Howard Stern claims to no longer smoke pot and use other illegal drugs, they have always been a favorite subject of his. In 1993, he devoted radio airtime to such pothead guests as David Lee Roth, Richard Belzer, Chip Z’Nuff of Enuff Z’Nuff and Phil Rind of Sacred Reich. Marijuana minstrel David Peel and Mickey “The Pope of Dope” Cezar were longtime Stern regulars. Private Parts, the shock-jock’s bestselling biography, was written with the help of former High Times editor-in-chief Larry “Ratso” Sloman. For the April, 1994 edition of High Times, Steve Bloom compiled a series of blurbs that illustrate Howard Stern’s progressive stance on drugs. In honor of Stern’s birthday January 12, we’re republishing them below.


On The Radio

November 29, 1990
Guests: Mickey “The Pope of Dope” Cezar and David Peel

Cezar: There are people out there suffering, people who are dying who need grass. The government says no. What kind of government is this who doesn’t give a good goddamn what happens to its citizens? To support some laws that to me are unconstitutional, inhuman and unjust…
Stern: So you actually distribute the pot to them free?
Cezar: Some of them, yes. If they can afford, they can pay. If you can’t, well…
Stern: Wow. You really are the Pope. Quickly, I’ll say hello to David Peel. Do you sell marijuana like the Pope?
Peel: I don’t sell it, I sing it.
Stern: Do you wanna sing a song?
Peel [sings]: Free the Pope, free the Pope/ The Pope smokes dope/ God gave him the grass/ The Pope smokes dope…
Stern: I gotta get outta here….

After Cezar and Peel leave and a commercial break.

Stern: Remember that song? Mari-marijuana, mari-marijuana/ We like marijuana, you like marijuana, everyone likes marijuana too/ Up against the wall, motherf-er…. Remember that one?
Jackie Martling: That was the big hit!
Stern: David Peel wrote that, right?
Martling: I know he sang it for years and years on the same street corner.


April 19, 1993
Guest: David Lee Roth

Stern: I know that good pot is four hundred dollars an ounce. So for ten dollars you probably just got a joint!
Roth: It’s the most creative ten dollars I ever spent!
Stern: Hey, normally when you buy ten dollars’ worth of pot you don’t have to do anything, but now all of a sudden that it’s David Lee Roth they could make a whole big deal out of it and really bust his balls for a couple of years.
Roth: Guys, I’m outta here. Have a really good day.
Stern: Didn’t it sound like he was rolling a joint while we were talking? I was almost up before a grand jury one time. I started making some jokes about coke. We don’t even do any drugs. We don’t even go to Washington Square Park and buy pot. I gave all that up like a hundred years ago. So we were talking about it and this DEA guy hears it and goes: OK, let’s get him up before the grand jury, joking is an offense! Jackie, would you ever buy pot in Washington Square Park?
Jackie Martling: You have to be crazy. Of course, he’s probably an old hippie who thinks it’s not a crime.
Stern: Everyone to Jackie who smokes pot is an old hippie.


October 23, 1993
Guest: Phil Rind

Rind: There are a lot of uses for hemp that people aren’t aware of.
Stern: You can put it in a bong. You can put it in brownies. Put it in a hash pipe.
Fred Norris: You can replace fossil fuels.
Stern: You can cure cancer.
Norris: You can build a house with it.
Martling: Smoke your house.
Stern: And you can feed Somalia with it.
Norris: You can take the leaves and fold it like origami.
Martling: What about breast implants?
Stern: Yeah, hemp breast implants. My mother has ’em.
Norris: You can make pot meatloaf.
Rind: Let’s grow hemp and stop cutting down the rainforest for paper. The original Constitution was written on hemp paper.
Stern: That’s convincing Sen. Jesse Helms.
Martling: They have clothes made out of hemp.
Stern: Pot clothes. You can smoke your jacket.
Rind: The first American flag was made out of hemp fiber. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew hemp.
Stern: Du-ude—I wipe with pot. Talk about a stereotype. Not a real good spokesperson. You can get better people. It’s cool if I came out to legalize pot because I don’t even smoke pot. You listen to the guy and go, “Well, he has selfish motivations.”


October 29, 1993
Guest: Richard Belzer

Belzer: I need your advice, Howard— I’ve never smoked marijuana…
Stern: Please! Belzer’s like a marijuana addict. He shoots it! Belzer loves to smoke pot.
Belzer: Say it again, Howard.
Stern: Belzer love to smoke pot. I assume he smokes pot because all he does is talk nine hours a day about pot. So, Belzer says to me: Do you think I should go judge the Cannabis Contest in Canada?
Belzer: No, in Amsterdam, where it’s legal! Should I do it, Howard?
Stern: Do they pay you?
Belzer: They’re flying me and my wife there, five star hotel. See, I’ve never tried it so I figured I’d try it in a country where it’s legal. What do you think?
Stern: Yeah, try it.
Belzer: OK, thanks.
Stern: So you dudes are gonna go over and smoke a bunch of cannabis for three days and try to decide what is the best?
Belzer: What if I cover the event for you?
Stern: Sure, give a call—definitely.
Belzer: We’ll call you from Amsterdam.
Stern: Call in high, after you’ve sampled everything.


December 6, 1993
Guest: Chip Z’Nuff

Stern: High Times magazine sent Chip out to cover the Cannabis Cup. He was a judge. You love weed, right?
Z’Nuff: It’s fun to partake. If you think about it, Howard, there’s like thirty thousand uses for grass.
Stern: I’m for legalizing marijuana. Why pick on those drugs? Valium is legal. You just go to a doctor and get it and overdose on it—what’s the difference? Prozac, all that stuff, so why not marijuana? Who cares? It’s something that grows out of the ground—why not? Go smoke a head of cabbage. I don’t care what you smoke. I don’t really care. I’m not a smoker anymore, but I don’t care. I say anything that calms people down I’m all for, because people are all hyped up. But every time you speak to these guys who dedicate their lives to legalizing marijuana, they go, “Hey dude, you can make rope out of marijuana.” I go, “Dude, don’t we have enough rope in this country?” So anyway, it’s totally legal over there [Holland]?
Z’Nuff: The grass out there is a lot different than here. Everything’s hydroponic.
Stern: You didn’t know Chip is a chemist. Everything is hydroponic, man! Whenever I read all the pot magazines hydroponics is, like, a big thing….


Between The Lines

Howard On Howard: “I would smoke dope and cigarettes up in my bedroom, blowing smoke out the window, while my parents were downstairs thinking I was doing homework…. I love my in-laws. They even smoked pot once with Alison [his first wife] because they wanted to experience what their children were going through…. When Paul McCartney got busted in Japan and imprisoned for grass, I called Tokyo to protest.” —from Private Parts

Jackie “The Joint Man” Martling on Howard: “Howard did everything—pot, LSD, whatever. He stopped slowly. Now he’s down to mineral water and jerking off.”

High Times on Howard: “Back in the early Eighties, Howard was the most irreverent person in the media. Almost no one would talk to him. He was scum. I could relate to him. Now he’s a big deal. He rides around in a limo. Now I can’t relate to him.” —John Holmstrom, Oct. ’90

The post High Times Greats: Howard Stern On Drugs appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Interview With Albert Hofmann, The Man Who First Synthesized LSD

Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann was born January 11, 1906 and died April 29, 2008. In an exclusive interview published in the July, 1976 edition of High Times, Hofmann looked back at his illustrious career.


At the height of World War II, four months after the first artificially created nuclear reaction was released in a pile of uranium ore in Chicago, an accidentally absorbed trace of a seminatural rye fungus product quietly exploded in the brain of a 37-year-old Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz research laboratories in Basel. He reported to his supervisor: “I was forced to stop my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and to go home, as I was seized by a peculiar restlessness associated with a sensation of mild dizziness … a kind of drunkenness which was not unpleasant and which was characterized by extreme activity of imagination … there surged upon me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscopelike play of colors….”

Three days later, on April 19, 1943, Dr. Albert Hofmann undertook a self-experiment that both confirmed the results of his earlier psychoactive experience and revealed a fascinating new discovery: Here was the first known substance that produced psychic effects from dosages so tiny they were measurable only in micrograms! Dr. Hofmann had discovered LSD-25.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was enthusiastically investigated by the European psychiatric profession as a possible key to the chemical nature of mental illness. Its effects were believed to mimic the psychotic state. As soon as LSD was introduced to American psychiatry in 1950, interest spread rapidly among the United States military and domestic security interests. By the middle 1950s, LSD was being researched as a creativity enhancer and learning stimulant; rumors of its ecstatic, mystic and psychic qualities began to leak out through the writings of Aldous Huxley, Robert Graves and other literary luminaries.

A large-scale, non-medical experiment involving LSD and other psychedelic drugs at Harvard in the early Sixties precipitated a fierce controversy over the limits of academic freedom and focused national attention on the drug now known as “acid.” Midway through the turbulent decade, one million people had tried black-market LSD, engendering a neurological revolution the fallout of which has not yet been assessed. In 1966, Congress outlawed LSD.

Dr. Hofmann now lives in comfortable retirement on a hill overlooking the Swiss-French border. He granted High Times this exclusive interview to discuss not only the implications of his discovery of LSD, but also his less publicized chemical investigations into the active agents of several sacred Mexican plants.

Considering his life’s work, Dr. Hofmann seems a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Not only have his discoveries broadened our knowledge of psychoactive chemicals and triggered the imaginations of thousands of scientists, historians and other researchers, but they have had a direct and revolutionary impact on humanity’s ability to understand and help itself.


Preliminary Note

I was at first not in agreement with the idea of publishing this interview here. I was surprised and shocked at the existence of such a magazine, whose text and advertising tended to treat the subject of illegal drugs with a casual and non-responsible attitude. Also, the manner in which High Times treats marijuana policy, which urgently needs a solution, does not correspond to my approach. Nevertheless, I came to the decision that my statement’s appearing in a magazine directed to readers who use currently illegal drugs might be of special value and could help to diminish the abuse or misuse of the psychedelic drugs. Michael Horowitz convinced me that an accurate description of the discovery of LSD and the Mexican magic plants, about which so many misleading versions exist, and my opinion on the various aspects of the drug problem, among other topics, would be useful to a large audience of interested persons in the United States. The aims of this interview are to provide information about what these kinds of drugs can and cannot do, and what their potential dangers are.

—Albert Hoffman, March 24, 1976


High Times: What work did you do prior to your discovery of LSD?

Hofmann: In the early years of my career in the pharmaceutical research laboratory of Sandoz in Basel, I was occupied mainly with investigations on the cardiac components, the glycosides, of squill, or Scilla maritima. These investigations resulted in the elucidation of the chemical constitution of the common nucleus of these agents, which provide valuable medicaments that are often used in the treatment of cardiac failure.

From 19351 worked on the alkaloids of ergot, resulting in the development of ergonovine, the first synthetic preparation of natural ergot alkaloids; Methergine, used in obstetrics to stop hemorrhage; Hydergine for geriatric complaints.

In 1943 the results of this first period of my research in the ergot field were published in a professional journal, Helvetica Chimica Acta. As a result of my first eight years of ergot research, I synthesized a large number of ergot derivatives: amides of lysergic acid, lysergic acid being the characteristic nucleus of natural ergot alkaloids. Among these amides of lysergic acid there was also the diethylamide of lysergic acid.

High Times: Did you have LSD in your laboratory as early as 1938?

Hofmann: Yes. At that time a number of pharmacological experiments were carried out in Sandoz’s department of pharmacology. Marked excitation was observed in some of the animals. But these effects did not seem interesting enough to my colleagues in the department.

Work on LSD fell into abeyance for a number of years. As I had a strange feeling that it would be valuable to carry out more profound studies with this compound, I prepared a fresh quantity of LSD in the spring of 1943. In the course of this work, an accidental observation led me to carry out a planned self-experiment with this compound, which then resulted in the discovery of the extraordinary psychic effects of LSD.

High Times: What sort of drug were you trying to make when you synthesized LSD?

Hofmann: When I synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide, laboratory code name LSD-25 or simply LSD, I had planned the preparation of an analeptic compound, which means a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. Lysergic acid diethylamide is related in chemical structure to nicotinic acid diethylamide, known to be an effective analeptic.

High Times: Was the discovery of LSD an accident?

Hofmann: I would say that LSD was the outcome of a complex process that had its beginning in a definite concept and was followed by an appropriate synthesis—that is, the synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide—during the course of which a chance observation served to trigger a planned self-experiment, which then led to the discovery of the psychic effects of this compound.

High Times: Does “LSD-25” mean that the preparation of LSD with the characteristic psychoactive effects was the twenty-fifth one you made?

Hofmann: No, the number 25 behind LSD means that lysergic acid diethylamide was the twenty-fifth compound I had prepared in the series of lysergic acid amides.

High Times: In the published report of your first LSD experience on April 16, 1943, at 3:00 P.M. in Basel, you write of a “laboratory intoxication.” Did you swallow something or breathe a vapor, or did some drops of solution fall upon you ?

Hofmann: No, I did not swallow anything, and I was used to working under very clean conditions, because these substances in general are toxic. You have to work very, very cleanly. Probably a trace of the solution of lysergic acid diethylamide I was crystallizing from methyl alcohol was absorbed through the skin of my fingers.

High Times: How big a dose did you take that first time, and what were the nature and intensity of that experience?

Hofmann: I don’t know—an immeasurable trace. The first experience was a very weak one, consisting of rather small changes. It had a pleasant, fairy tale-magic theater quality. Three days later, on April 19, 1943, I made my first planned experiment with 0.25 milligrams, or 250 micrograms.

High Times: Did you swallow it?

Hofmann: Yes, I prepared a solution of 5 milligrams and took a fraction corresponding to 250 micrograms, or 25 millionths of a gram. I didn’t expect this dose to work at all, and planned to take more and more to get the effects. There was no other substance known at the time which had any effect with so small a dose.

High Times: Did your colleagues know that you were making this experiment?

Hofmann: Only my assistant.

High Times: Were you familiar with the work done on mescaline by Klüver, Beringer and Rouhier in the late 1920s before you yourself experimented with mind-altering substances?

Hofmann: No—I became interested in their work only after the discovery of LSD. They are pioneers in the field of psychoactive plants.

Mescaline, studied for the first time by Lewin in 1888, was the first hallucinogen available as a chemically pure compound; LSD was the second. Karl Beringer’s investigations were published in the classic monograph Der Meskalinrausch in 1928, but in the years following, interest in the hallucinogenic research faded.

Not until my discovery of LSD, which is about 5,000 to 10,000 times more active than mescaline, did this line of research receive a new impetus.

High Times: How long were you able to keep writing lab notes that afternoon?

Hofmann: Not very. As the effects intensified I realized that I did not know what was going to happen, if I’d ever come back. I thought I was dying or going crazy. I thought of my wife and two young children who would never know or understand why I could have done this. My first planned self-experiment with LSD was a “bum trip,” as one would say nowadays.

High Times: Why was it four years from your discovery of the psychic effects of LSD until your report was published? Was your information suppressed?

Hofmann: There was no suppression of that knowledge. After confirmation of the action of this extraordinary compound by volunteers of the Sandoz staff, Professor Arthur Stoll, who was then head of the Sandoz pharmaceutical department, asked me if I would permit his son, Werner A. Stoll—who was starting his career at the psychiatric hospital of the University of Zurich—to submit this new agent to a fundamental psychiatric study on normal volunteers and on psychiatric patients. This investigation took a rather long time, because Dr. Stoll, like myself and most young Swiss people in that period of war, often had to interrupt his work to serve in the army. This excellent and comprehensive study was not published until 1947.

High Times: Did government agents aware of LSD approach you during World War ll?

Hofmann: Before Werner Stoll’s psychiatric report appeared in 1947, there was no general knowledge of LSD. In military circles in the 1950s, however, there was open discussion of LSD as an “incapacitating drug,” and thus “a weapon without death.” At that time the U.S. Army sent a representative to Sandoz to speak to me about the procedure for producing large quantities of LSD.

Of course, the plan to use it as an “incapacitating agent” was not practicable because there was no way of uniformly distributing doses—some would get a lot and some would get none. Discussions of the military uses of LSD were no secret at that time, although some journalists speak as if they were.

High Times: Arthur Stoll’s name appears with yours on the chemical paper where the synthesis of LSD is first described. What was his connection with this investigation?

Hofmann: Stoll’s name appears on all papers coming out of the research laboratories at Sandoz as part of his function of head of the department, but he had no direct connection with the discovery of LSD. He was one of the pioneers in ergot research, having isolated in 1918 the first chemically pure alkaloid from ergot—ergotamine—which proved to be a useful medicament in the treatment of migraine. But then research on ergot was discontinued at Sandoz until I started it again in 1935.

High Times: Who was the second person to take LSD?

Hofmann: Professor Ernst Rothlin, head of the Sandoz pharmacological department at the time. Rothlin was dubious about LSD; he claimed he had a strong will and could suppress the effects of drugs. But after he took 60 micrograms—one quarter of the dose I had taken earlier—he was convinced. I had to laugh as he described his fantastic visions.

High Times: Have you taken LSD outside of the laboratory?

Hofmann: Around 1949 to 1951, I arranged some LSD sessions at home in the friendly and private company of two good friends of mine: the pharmacologist Professor Heribert-Konzett, and the writer Ernst Jünger. Jünger is the author of, among other works, Approaching Revelation: Drugs and Narcotics [Annäherungen; Drogen und Rausch. Stuttgart: Klett, 1970].

I did this in order to investigate the influence of the surroundings, of the outer and inner conditions on the LSD experience. These experiments showed me the enormous impact of—to use modern terms—set and setting on the content and character of the experience.

I also learned that planning has its limitations. In spite of good mood at the beginning of a session—positive expectations, beautiful surroundings and sympathetic company—I once fell into a terrible depression. This unpredictability of effects is the major danger of LSD.

High Times: How long and how often did you continue to take LSD?

Hofmann: My ten to 15 experiments with LSD were distributed over 27 years. The last one was in 1970. Since then I have taken no more LSD, because I believe that all an LSD experience can give me has already been given. Maybe later in my life I will have the need to take it once or several times more.

High Times: What was the largest single dose of LSD that you took ?

Hofmann: 250 micrograms.

High Times: Would you recommend the use of LSD?

Hofmann: I suppose that your question refers to the non-medical use of LSD. If such use were at present legal, which is not the case, then I would suggest the following guidelines: The experience is handled best by a ripe, stabilized person with a meaningful reason for taking LSD.

With regard to its psychic effects and its chemical constitution, LSD belongs to that group of Mexican drugs, peyotl, teonanacatl and ololiuqui, that became sacred drugs because of their uncanny way of affecting the core of the mind. The Indians’ religious awe of the psychedelic drug may be replaced in our society by respect and reverence, based on scientifically established knowledge of its unique psychic effects.

This respectful attitude toward LSD must be supplemented by appropriate external conditions—by choosing an inspiring milieu and selected company for the session, and having medical assistance available just in case it is needed.

High Times: Are the effects of ergotism similar to those of LSD?

Hofmann: There are two forms of ergotism: ergotismus gangrenosus and ergotismus convulsivus. The former is characterized by symptoms of gangrene, but without accompanying psychic effects. In the latter form, contractions and convulsions of the muscles often culminate in a state comparable to epilepsy—a condition sometimes accompanied by hallucinations, and thus related to the effects of LSD. This can be explained by the fact that the alkaloids of ergot have the same basic nucleus as LSD; that is, they are derivatives of lysergic acid.

High Times: Is the term psychedelic, coined by Dr. Humphry Osmond, agreeable to you?

Hofmann: I think it is a good term. It corresponds better to the effects of these drugs than hallucinogenic or psychotomimetic. Another suitable designation would have been phantastica, coined by Louis Lewin in the 1920s, but it was not accepted in English-speaking countries.

High Times: You have described your psychoactive drug investigations as a “magic circle.” What do you mean?

Hofmann: My investigations of lysergic acid amides brought me to LSD. LSD brought the sacred Mexican mushrooms to my attention, which led to the synthesis of psilocybin, which in turn brought about a visit from Gordon Wasson and the subsequent investigations with ololiuqui. There I again encountered lysergic acid amides, closing the magic circle 17 years later.

High Times: Can you describe the events leading up to that?

Hofmann: After having studied the mushroom ceremony in Mexico during 1954 and 1955, Gordon Wasson and his wife invited the mycologist Roger Heim to accompany them on a further expedition in 1956 in order to identify the sacred mushroom.

He discovered that most of them were a new species belonging to the genus Psilocybe mexicana of the family of Strophariaceae. He was able to cultivate some of them artificially in his Paris laboratory, but after unsuccessful attempts to isolated the active principle, he sent the sacred mushrooms to the Sandoz laboratory in hopes that our experience with LSD would enable us to solve this problem. In a sense, LSD brought the sacred mushrooms to my laboratory.

We first tested the mushroom extract on animals, but the results were negative. It was uncertain whether the mushrooms cultivated and dried in Paris were still active at all, so in order to settle this fundamental point I decided to test them on myself. I ate 32 dried specimens of Psilocybe mexicana.

High Times: Isn’t that a large dose?

Hofmann: No. The mushrooms were very tiny, weighing only 2.4 grams—a medium dose by Indian standards.

High Times: What was it like?

Hofmann: Everything assumed a Mexican character. Whether my eyes were closed or open, I saw only Mexican motifs and colors. When the doctor supervising the experiment bent over to check my blood pressure, he was transformed into an Aztec priest, and I would not have been astonished had he drawn an obsidian knife.

It was a strong experience and lasted about six hours. The mushrooms were active; the negative results of the test with animals had been due to the comparatively low sensitivity of animals to substances with psychic effects.

High Times: Did you then proceed with the synthesis?

Hofmann: After this reliable test with human beings, meaning that my coworkers and I ingested the fractions to be tested, I extracted the active principles from the mushrooms, purified and finally crystallized them.

I named the main active principle of Psilocybe mexicana psilocybin and the accompanying alkaloid, usually present only in small amounts, psilocin. My co-workers and I were then able to elucidate the chemical structure of psilocybin and psilocin, and after that we succeeded in synthesizing these compounds.

The synthetic production of psilocybin is now much more economic than obtaining it from the mushroom. Thus teonanacatl was demystified —the two substances whose magic effects made the Mexican Indians believe for thousands of years that a god resided in a mushroom can now be prepared in a retort.

High Times: In one of his recorded lectures, Aldous Huxley described the delight of Wasson’s famous curandera, Maria Sabina of Huautla, upon ingesting psilocybin. She realized that she could now perform magic all year round, and not just during the mushroom season following the rains.

Hofmann: That was my psilocybin. When Wasson and I visited Maria Sabina there were no sacred mushrooms because it was so late in the season, so we provided her with pills containing synthetic psilocybin.

After taking a rather strong dose in the course of a nocturnal session, she said there was no difference between the pills and the mushrooms. “The spirit of the mushroom is in the pill,” she said—final proof that our synthetic preparation was identical in every respect with the natural product.

High Times: What prompted your investigations of ololiuqui, another of the Mexican sacred plants?

Hofmann: When Wasson came to Sandoz to view the synthetic psilocybin crystals in my laboratory, he was delighted that the results of our chemical investigation had confirmed his ethnomycological studies of the sacred mushroom. We became friends and made plans to further investigate Mexican sacred plants.

The next problem we decided to tackle was the riddle of ololiuqui, which is the Aztec name for the seeds of certain morning-glories. With Wasson’s help, I was able to obtain ololiuqui seeds collected by Zapotec Indians.

The chemical analysis of the ololiuqui seeds gave a quite surprising result. The active principle that we isolated proved to be lysergic acid amide and other ergot alkaloids.

High Times: So ololiuqui is chemically related to LSD ?

Hofmann: Yes. The main ololiuqui alkaloid is lysergic acid amide, which differs from LSD —from lysergic acid diethylamide—only by two ethyl radicals. I did not expect to find lysergic acid derivatives—which were known until then only as products of lower fungi of the ergot type—also in higher plants, in morning-glory species of the phanerogamic family of the Convolvulaceae.

My results were so surprising that the first paper I delivered on the subject in Melbourne in 1960 was received by my colleagues with skepticism. They would not believe me. “Oh, you have so much lysergic acid compounds in your laboratory, you may have contaminated your ololiuqui extracts with them,” they said.

High Times: What was the purpose of your journey to Mexico?

Hofmann: It was an expedition that Wasson organized in the autumn of 1962 to search for another, unidentified magic Mexican plant, namely the so-called hojas de la Pastora. We traveled by horseback on Indian trails through the Sierra Mazateca, finally arriving in time to assist in a nocturnal ceremony in the hut of a curandera who used the juice of the leaves of hojas de la Pastora.

Afterwards we were able to get some specimens of the plant. It was a new species of the mint family that was later identified botanically at Harvard University and named Salvia divinorum. Back in my laboratory at Sandoz, I had no success in extracting the active principle, which in Salvia divinorum is very unstable.

High Times: Are the psychoactive effects of Salvia divinorum similar to those of Psilocyhe mexicana and LSD?

Hofmann: Yes, but less pronounced.

High Times: What writers do you find to be the most successful in conveying the psychedelic experience in literature?

Hofmann: I find the best descriptions in Aldous Huxley’s books. After that I would say Timothy Leary and Alan Watts; in France, Henri Michaux.

In German literature. Rudolf Gelpke deserves to be named in this respect, but I don’t believe his works are available in English. “Von Fahrten in den Weltraum der Seele” [“Travels in the Cosmos of the Soul”], published in the journal Antaios in 1962, is especially fine.

I should also mention the new monograph by Dr. Stan Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious [New York: Viking, 1975], containing excellent descriptions of LSD sessions in the framework of psychiatric studies.

High Times: Did Herman Hesse or Carl Jung ever show an interest in your discovery?

Hofmann: I never met Hesse, but his books—especially The Glass Bead Game and Steppenwolf— have deeply interested me in connection with LSD research. It is possible that Hesse experimented with mescaline in the 1920s as some have supposed —I have no way of knowing. Outside of one brief meeting with Jung at an international congress of psychiatrists, I had no contact with him.

High Times: Did you ever meet Aldous Huxley?

Hofmann: Twice. I met him for lunch in Zurich in 1961, and again in 1963 when we were both in Stockholm attending the WAAS [World Academy of Art and Science] Conference, where the topics of overpopulation, depletion of natural resources and ecology in general were discussed. I was deeply impressed by Huxley: he radiated life, intelligence, kindness and openness —and he was of course extremely articulate.

High Times: What do you think of The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide to the psychedelic experience, as suggested by Huxley and the Harvard researchers, among others?

Hofmann: The general ideas and instructions on how to prepare and run a psychedelic session given there are the outcome of long experiences in this field and seem very valuable. What disturbs me is the use of the foreign Tibetan symbolism. I prefer that we remain within our own cultural framework—that we use symbols found in the writings of Western mystics such as Silesius, Eckhart, Boehme and Swedenborg.

High Times: What was your impression of Dr. Timothy Leary’s work with psychedelics?

Hofmann: I formed my first impression of Dr. Leary in 1963. At that time he was involved, together with his colleague Dr. Richard Alpert, at Harvard University in a project investigating the use of LSD and psilocybin in the rehabilitation of convicts. Dr. Leary sent me an order for 100 grams of LSD and 25 kilograms of psilocybin. Before the sales department of Sandoz could carry out the demand for this extraordinarily large quantity of psychedelic compounds we asked Dr. Leary to provide us with the necessary import license from the U.S. health authorities. He failed to provide it. The unrealistic manner with which he handled this transaction left the impression of a person unconcerned with the regulations of society.

I got a glimpse of another facet of his character when he invited me later the same year to participate in a meeting on drug research at Zihuatanejo, Mexico. He emphasized that radio, television and journalists of the most important mass media would be present, which revealed a very publicity-conscious personality.

High Times: You met with Leary later, didn’t you?

Hofmann: A decade later when Dr. Leary had escaped from prison and was living in exile in Switzerland. I was eager to meet him personally, having read so much in the press about him during the intervening period. On the third of September, 1971, the father and prophet of LSD met in Lausanne.

I was surprised to meet not a professorial type of scientist, nor a fanatic, but a slender, smiling, boyish man, representing rather a tennis champion than a Harvard professor.

During the course of our conversation. Dr. Leary gave me the impression of an idealistic person who believes in the transforming influence of psychedelic drugs on mankind, is conscious of the complexity of the drug problem and yet was careless of all the difficulties involved in the promotion of his ideas.

High Times: Apart from his personal style, what did you think of Dr. Leary’s ideas at the time of the Swiss meeting?

Hofmann: We were in agreement concerning the enormous importance of making a fundamental distinction between drugs. We agreed that the use of addiction-producing drugs, especially heroin with its disastrous somatic and psychic effects, should be avoided by any means possible. We agreed also in the evaluation of the potentially beneficial effects of psychedelic drugs. We disagreed as to the extent that psychedelics should be used and by whom.

Whereas Dr. Leary advocated the use of LSD under appropriate conditions by very young people, by teenagers, I insisted that a ripe, stable personality be a prior condition. Ripe because the drug can release only what is already in the mind. It brings in nothing new—it is like a key that can open a door to our subconscious. Stabilized because it needs spiritual strength for handling and integrating an overwhelming psychedelic experience into the existing Weltbild.

High Times: Does LSD possess aphrodisiac qualities?

Hofmann: Only in the sense that LSD adds new dimensions to all experiences, including of course the sexual.

High Times: Have you benefitted financially from your discovery of LSD?

Hofmann: No.

High Times: Sandoz is one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the world. How did it deal with the manufacture and distribution of so controversial a substance as LSD?

Hofmann: It was clear from the very beginning that LSD, in spite of its extraordinary qualities, would not become a pharmaceutical preparation of commercial value. Notwithstanding this, Sandoz put enormous effort into the scientific investigation of the substance, showing the eminent role LSD could play as an excellent tool in brain research and in psychiatry.

Sandoz therefore made LSD available to qualified experimental and clinical investigators all over the world to promote such research with technical help and in many instances with financial support. Sandoz played a noble role in the scientific development of LSD.

High Times: Did Sandoz stop producing LSD because it was finding its way onto the black market?

Hofmann: At the onset of the LSD hysteria in 1965, Sandoz completely stopped the distribution of LSD for research purposes in order to avoid all possibility and to counteract false rumors that its LSD could find its way onto the black market.

Another reason was to force health authorities of different countries to provide adequate rules and regulations regarding the distribution of LSD. After this was accomplished, they again supplied LSD in America to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] for distribution, but only to licensed investigators.

High Times: In the United States there has been a recent major investigation of improper LSD experiments carried out by the CIA, Army, Navy and other governmental agencies. Did they get their LSD from Sandoz just as Timothy Leary’s psychedelic research project at Harvard got theirs?

Hofmann: Sandoz supplied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who then distributed it in America. Probably that is how the CIA and others got it.

High Times: Have you ever been approached by Soviet agents in need of Sandoz LSD or of your expertise?

Hofmann: This has not happened. I have learned from Swedish scientists in Stockholm that the Russians have studied LSD’s uses in military and parapsychological investigations, and that they were searching for an antidote. But the pharmaceutical firm of Spofa in Prague probably provided the LSD.

High Times: Are you familiar with the underground chemist, Stanley Owsley, who in the 1960s produced the most widely distributed black-market LSD?

Hofmann: I have heard his name mentioned in this context, but know nothing else about him.

High Times: What has been the purity of the black-market LSD that you’ve tested?

Hofmann: Some contained the “labeled” amount, some less. It’s difficult to make a stable preparation under less than perfect laboratory conditions. You must eliminate every trace of oxygen. Oxidation destroys LSD, as does light.

High Times: Are you familiar with an LSD-like substance called ALD-52 that figured prominently in an acid trial two years ago?

Hofmann: Yes. ALD-52 is Acetyl-LSD, a modification of LSD that proved to be as active, because acetyl is removed in the body and you have the effects of LSD. It has only been used experimentally. We sent it to the Drug Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, Kentucky, for testing some years ago.

High Times: What do you know about ketamine?

Hofmann: Ketamine is a totally synthetic psychedelic, unlike LSD, which is a seminatural product.

High Times: What is now known about the neurological effects of LSD and other psychedelics?

Hofmann: We know LSD concentrates in the hypothalamus, the same region of the brain where serotonin is found. This is the brain’s emotional center. But there still exists a big gap between the pharmacology of and the mechanisms underlying consciousness.

The problem is that the thought-function that you investigate is the same instrument you use for investigation.

High Times: For many people LSD provides what they describe as a religious experience. What are your feelings on this?

Hofmann: People for whom LSD provides a religious experience expect to have such an experience when they take it. Expectation —which is identical to autosuggestion—determines to a high degree what will happen in the session, because one of the most important features of the LSD state is its extreme suggestibility.

Another reason for the incidence of religious experiences is the fact that the very core of the human mind is connected with God. This deepest root of our consciousness, which in the normal state is hidden by superficial rational activities of the mind, may become revealed by the action of the psychedelic drug.

High Times: Is LSD an evolutionary agent?

Hofmann: Possibly. In the LSD state we may become conscious, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, of the “entire complex of interhuman and intercosmic relations with an immediacy, an intimacy and a realism” that otherwise happens only in spontaneous ecstatic states and to a very few blessed people.

Agreement exists among spiritual leaders that the continuation of the present development, characterized by increasing industrialization and overpopulation, will result in the exhaustion of natural resources and destroy the ecological basis for mankind’s existence on this planet. This trend to self-annihilation is reinforced by international politics based on “power trips” and the preparation of weapons of apocalyptic potential.

This development can be stopped only by a change in the materialistic attitude that has caused this development. This change can result only from insight into the deepest spiritual roots of life and existence, from comprehensive use of all forces of our intelligence and all resources of our knowledge.

This intellectual approach, supplemented by visionary experience, could produce an alteration of the consciousness of truth and reality that could be of evolutionary significance. LSD selectively and wisely used could be one means of supplementing intellectual with visionary insight and helping the prepared mind become conscious of a deeper reality.

High Times: Did your LSD experiences change your personal life and tastes?

Hofmann: It increased my sensitivity to classical music—especially Mozart. My life habits did not change.

High Times: Has your wife also experimented with psychedelics?

Hofmann: Yes. Once in Mexico in the session with Salvia divinorum when I had some gastric trouble and could not ingest the juice, she took my place. She also took some of the psilocybin pills during the historic session when Maria Sabina confirmed their potency.

High Times: What general medical uses might LSD be marketed for in the future?

Hofmann: Very small doses, perhaps 25 micrograms, could be useful as a euphoriant or antidepressant.

High Times: Which of your works are available in English?

Hofmann: Several years ago Dr. Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard and I coauthored a book called The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens. It is intended primarily to provide specialized students with basic knowledge of the botany and chemistry of hallucinogenic plants. I am currently writing my memoirs, but these will first be published in German.

High Times: What have you been doing since your retirement from Sandoz?

Hofmann: I retired in 1971 after 42 years with Sandoz. Since then I have been writing and lecturing on psychoactive drugs. Here at home I work in the orchard and run in the woods for exercise. It’s wonderful to be able to spend a great deal of time in unspoiled nature after decades of work in laboratories.

High Times: In his book Gravity’s Rainbow, the American author Thomas Pynchon has described a stained-glass window in your office at the otherwise dull Sandoz labs. Is this true?

Hofmann: That is true. It is now here in my house. Actually, it’s a modern glass in the old style depicting Asclepius and his mentor, the centaur Chiron.

High Times: Are the Swiss proud of your discovery of LSD and the synthesis of psilocybin and ololiuqui, or has the controversy surrounding these drugs dispelled that?

Hofmann: My discoveries have proved very controversial. Some consider these drugs to be diabolique, and a few clergymen asked me to confess mea culpa in public, but in professional circles my work has been appreciated. I’ve been honored by the National Polytechnic Institute here in Switzerland; by honorary degrees in natural science and in pharmacy from the Swedish Royal Pharmaceutical Institute, and in the United States by an honorary membership in the American Society of Pharmacognosy.

High Times: What made you decide to become a chemist?

Hofmann: I was interested in knowing what our world is made of. Chemistry is the science of the constituents of the world, so at age 19 I made the decision to become a chemist for both mystical-philosophical reasons and for reasons of curiosity.

High Times: Has LSD affected your philosophical outlook?

Hofmann: From my LSD experiments, including the very first terrifying one, I have received knowledge of not only one. but of an infinite number of realities. Depending upon the condition of our senses and psychic receptors we experience a different reality.

I realized that the depth and richness of the inner and outer universe are immeasurable and inexhaustible, but that we have to return from these strange worlds to our homeland and live here in the reality that is provided by our normal, healthy senses. It’s like astronauts returning from outer space flights: they must readjust to this planet.

In some of my psychedelic experiences I had a feeling of ecstatic love and unity with all creatures in the universe. To have had such an experience of absolute beatitude means an enrichment of our life.

High Times: How would you like the future ages to remember you and your discovery?

Hofmann: Perhaps the image of a chemist riding along on a bicycle on the very first LSD trip will change to the Old Man of the Mountain.

The post High Times Greats: Interview With Albert Hofmann, The Man Who First Synthesized LSD appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Interview With Albert Hofmann, The Man Who First Synthesized LSD

Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann was born January 11, 1906 and died April 29, 2008. In an exclusive interview published in the July, 1976 edition of High Times, Hofmann looked back at his illustrious career.


At the height of World War II, four months after the first artificially created nuclear reaction was released in a pile of uranium ore in Chicago, an accidentally absorbed trace of a seminatural rye fungus product quietly exploded in the brain of a 37-year-old Swiss chemist working at the Sandoz research laboratories in Basel. He reported to his supervisor: “I was forced to stop my work in the laboratory in the middle of the afternoon and to go home, as I was seized by a peculiar restlessness associated with a sensation of mild dizziness … a kind of drunkenness which was not unpleasant and which was characterized by extreme activity of imagination … there surged upon me an uninterrupted stream of fantastic images of extraordinary plasticity and vividness and accompanied by an intense, kaleidoscopelike play of colors….”

Three days later, on April 19, 1943, Dr. Albert Hofmann undertook a self-experiment that both confirmed the results of his earlier psychoactive experience and revealed a fascinating new discovery: Here was the first known substance that produced psychic effects from dosages so tiny they were measurable only in micrograms! Dr. Hofmann had discovered LSD-25.

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was enthusiastically investigated by the European psychiatric profession as a possible key to the chemical nature of mental illness. Its effects were believed to mimic the psychotic state. As soon as LSD was introduced to American psychiatry in 1950, interest spread rapidly among the United States military and domestic security interests. By the middle 1950s, LSD was being researched as a creativity enhancer and learning stimulant; rumors of its ecstatic, mystic and psychic qualities began to leak out through the writings of Aldous Huxley, Robert Graves and other literary luminaries.

A large-scale, non-medical experiment involving LSD and other psychedelic drugs at Harvard in the early Sixties precipitated a fierce controversy over the limits of academic freedom and focused national attention on the drug now known as “acid.” Midway through the turbulent decade, one million people had tried black-market LSD, engendering a neurological revolution the fallout of which has not yet been assessed. In 1966, Congress outlawed LSD.

Dr. Hofmann now lives in comfortable retirement on a hill overlooking the Swiss-French border. He granted High Times this exclusive interview to discuss not only the implications of his discovery of LSD, but also his less publicized chemical investigations into the active agents of several sacred Mexican plants.

Considering his life’s work, Dr. Hofmann seems a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in chemistry. Not only have his discoveries broadened our knowledge of psychoactive chemicals and triggered the imaginations of thousands of scientists, historians and other researchers, but they have had a direct and revolutionary impact on humanity’s ability to understand and help itself.


Preliminary Note

I was at first not in agreement with the idea of publishing this interview here. I was surprised and shocked at the existence of such a magazine, whose text and advertising tended to treat the subject of illegal drugs with a casual and non-responsible attitude. Also, the manner in which High Times treats marijuana policy, which urgently needs a solution, does not correspond to my approach. Nevertheless, I came to the decision that my statement’s appearing in a magazine directed to readers who use currently illegal drugs might be of special value and could help to diminish the abuse or misuse of the psychedelic drugs. Michael Horowitz convinced me that an accurate description of the discovery of LSD and the Mexican magic plants, about which so many misleading versions exist, and my opinion on the various aspects of the drug problem, among other topics, would be useful to a large audience of interested persons in the United States. The aims of this interview are to provide information about what these kinds of drugs can and cannot do, and what their potential dangers are.

—Albert Hoffman, March 24, 1976


High Times: What work did you do prior to your discovery of LSD?

Hofmann: In the early years of my career in the pharmaceutical research laboratory of Sandoz in Basel, I was occupied mainly with investigations on the cardiac components, the glycosides, of squill, or Scilla maritima. These investigations resulted in the elucidation of the chemical constitution of the common nucleus of these agents, which provide valuable medicaments that are often used in the treatment of cardiac failure.

From 19351 worked on the alkaloids of ergot, resulting in the development of ergonovine, the first synthetic preparation of natural ergot alkaloids; Methergine, used in obstetrics to stop hemorrhage; Hydergine for geriatric complaints.

In 1943 the results of this first period of my research in the ergot field were published in a professional journal, Helvetica Chimica Acta. As a result of my first eight years of ergot research, I synthesized a large number of ergot derivatives: amides of lysergic acid, lysergic acid being the characteristic nucleus of natural ergot alkaloids. Among these amides of lysergic acid there was also the diethylamide of lysergic acid.

High Times: Did you have LSD in your laboratory as early as 1938?

Hofmann: Yes. At that time a number of pharmacological experiments were carried out in Sandoz’s department of pharmacology. Marked excitation was observed in some of the animals. But these effects did not seem interesting enough to my colleagues in the department.

Work on LSD fell into abeyance for a number of years. As I had a strange feeling that it would be valuable to carry out more profound studies with this compound, I prepared a fresh quantity of LSD in the spring of 1943. In the course of this work, an accidental observation led me to carry out a planned self-experiment with this compound, which then resulted in the discovery of the extraordinary psychic effects of LSD.

High Times: What sort of drug were you trying to make when you synthesized LSD?

Hofmann: When I synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide, laboratory code name LSD-25 or simply LSD, I had planned the preparation of an analeptic compound, which means a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. Lysergic acid diethylamide is related in chemical structure to nicotinic acid diethylamide, known to be an effective analeptic.

High Times: Was the discovery of LSD an accident?

Hofmann: I would say that LSD was the outcome of a complex process that had its beginning in a definite concept and was followed by an appropriate synthesis—that is, the synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide—during the course of which a chance observation served to trigger a planned self-experiment, which then led to the discovery of the psychic effects of this compound.

High Times: Does “LSD-25” mean that the preparation of LSD with the characteristic psychoactive effects was the twenty-fifth one you made?

Hofmann: No, the number 25 behind LSD means that lysergic acid diethylamide was the twenty-fifth compound I had prepared in the series of lysergic acid amides.

High Times: In the published report of your first LSD experience on April 16, 1943, at 3:00 P.M. in Basel, you write of a “laboratory intoxication.” Did you swallow something or breathe a vapor, or did some drops of solution fall upon you ?

Hofmann: No, I did not swallow anything, and I was used to working under very clean conditions, because these substances in general are toxic. You have to work very, very cleanly. Probably a trace of the solution of lysergic acid diethylamide I was crystallizing from methyl alcohol was absorbed through the skin of my fingers.

High Times: How big a dose did you take that first time, and what were the nature and intensity of that experience?

Hofmann: I don’t know—an immeasurable trace. The first experience was a very weak one, consisting of rather small changes. It had a pleasant, fairy tale-magic theater quality. Three days later, on April 19, 1943, I made my first planned experiment with 0.25 milligrams, or 250 micrograms.

High Times: Did you swallow it?

Hofmann: Yes, I prepared a solution of 5 milligrams and took a fraction corresponding to 250 micrograms, or 25 millionths of a gram. I didn’t expect this dose to work at all, and planned to take more and more to get the effects. There was no other substance known at the time which had any effect with so small a dose.

High Times: Did your colleagues know that you were making this experiment?

Hofmann: Only my assistant.

High Times: Were you familiar with the work done on mescaline by Klüver, Beringer and Rouhier in the late 1920s before you yourself experimented with mind-altering substances?

Hofmann: No—I became interested in their work only after the discovery of LSD. They are pioneers in the field of psychoactive plants.

Mescaline, studied for the first time by Lewin in 1888, was the first hallucinogen available as a chemically pure compound; LSD was the second. Karl Beringer’s investigations were published in the classic monograph Der Meskalinrausch in 1928, but in the years following, interest in the hallucinogenic research faded.

Not until my discovery of LSD, which is about 5,000 to 10,000 times more active than mescaline, did this line of research receive a new impetus.

High Times: How long were you able to keep writing lab notes that afternoon?

Hofmann: Not very. As the effects intensified I realized that I did not know what was going to happen, if I’d ever come back. I thought I was dying or going crazy. I thought of my wife and two young children who would never know or understand why I could have done this. My first planned self-experiment with LSD was a “bum trip,” as one would say nowadays.

High Times: Why was it four years from your discovery of the psychic effects of LSD until your report was published? Was your information suppressed?

Hofmann: There was no suppression of that knowledge. After confirmation of the action of this extraordinary compound by volunteers of the Sandoz staff, Professor Arthur Stoll, who was then head of the Sandoz pharmaceutical department, asked me if I would permit his son, Werner A. Stoll—who was starting his career at the psychiatric hospital of the University of Zurich—to submit this new agent to a fundamental psychiatric study on normal volunteers and on psychiatric patients. This investigation took a rather long time, because Dr. Stoll, like myself and most young Swiss people in that period of war, often had to interrupt his work to serve in the army. This excellent and comprehensive study was not published until 1947.

High Times: Did government agents aware of LSD approach you during World War ll?

Hofmann: Before Werner Stoll’s psychiatric report appeared in 1947, there was no general knowledge of LSD. In military circles in the 1950s, however, there was open discussion of LSD as an “incapacitating drug,” and thus “a weapon without death.” At that time the U.S. Army sent a representative to Sandoz to speak to me about the procedure for producing large quantities of LSD.

Of course, the plan to use it as an “incapacitating agent” was not practicable because there was no way of uniformly distributing doses—some would get a lot and some would get none. Discussions of the military uses of LSD were no secret at that time, although some journalists speak as if they were.

High Times: Arthur Stoll’s name appears with yours on the chemical paper where the synthesis of LSD is first described. What was his connection with this investigation?

Hofmann: Stoll’s name appears on all papers coming out of the research laboratories at Sandoz as part of his function of head of the department, but he had no direct connection with the discovery of LSD. He was one of the pioneers in ergot research, having isolated in 1918 the first chemically pure alkaloid from ergot—ergotamine—which proved to be a useful medicament in the treatment of migraine. But then research on ergot was discontinued at Sandoz until I started it again in 1935.

High Times: Who was the second person to take LSD?

Hofmann: Professor Ernst Rothlin, head of the Sandoz pharmacological department at the time. Rothlin was dubious about LSD; he claimed he had a strong will and could suppress the effects of drugs. But after he took 60 micrograms—one quarter of the dose I had taken earlier—he was convinced. I had to laugh as he described his fantastic visions.

High Times: Have you taken LSD outside of the laboratory?

Hofmann: Around 1949 to 1951, I arranged some LSD sessions at home in the friendly and private company of two good friends of mine: the pharmacologist Professor Heribert-Konzett, and the writer Ernst Jünger. Jünger is the author of, among other works, Approaching Revelation: Drugs and Narcotics [Annäherungen; Drogen und Rausch. Stuttgart: Klett, 1970].

I did this in order to investigate the influence of the surroundings, of the outer and inner conditions on the LSD experience. These experiments showed me the enormous impact of—to use modern terms—set and setting on the content and character of the experience.

I also learned that planning has its limitations. In spite of good mood at the beginning of a session—positive expectations, beautiful surroundings and sympathetic company—I once fell into a terrible depression. This unpredictability of effects is the major danger of LSD.

High Times: How long and how often did you continue to take LSD?

Hofmann: My ten to 15 experiments with LSD were distributed over 27 years. The last one was in 1970. Since then I have taken no more LSD, because I believe that all an LSD experience can give me has already been given. Maybe later in my life I will have the need to take it once or several times more.

High Times: What was the largest single dose of LSD that you took ?

Hofmann: 250 micrograms.

High Times: Would you recommend the use of LSD?

Hofmann: I suppose that your question refers to the non-medical use of LSD. If such use were at present legal, which is not the case, then I would suggest the following guidelines: The experience is handled best by a ripe, stabilized person with a meaningful reason for taking LSD.

With regard to its psychic effects and its chemical constitution, LSD belongs to that group of Mexican drugs, peyotl, teonanacatl and ololiuqui, that became sacred drugs because of their uncanny way of affecting the core of the mind. The Indians’ religious awe of the psychedelic drug may be replaced in our society by respect and reverence, based on scientifically established knowledge of its unique psychic effects.

This respectful attitude toward LSD must be supplemented by appropriate external conditions—by choosing an inspiring milieu and selected company for the session, and having medical assistance available just in case it is needed.

High Times: Are the effects of ergotism similar to those of LSD?

Hofmann: There are two forms of ergotism: ergotismus gangrenosus and ergotismus convulsivus. The former is characterized by symptoms of gangrene, but without accompanying psychic effects. In the latter form, contractions and convulsions of the muscles often culminate in a state comparable to epilepsy—a condition sometimes accompanied by hallucinations, and thus related to the effects of LSD. This can be explained by the fact that the alkaloids of ergot have the same basic nucleus as LSD; that is, they are derivatives of lysergic acid.

High Times: Is the term psychedelic, coined by Dr. Humphry Osmond, agreeable to you?

Hofmann: I think it is a good term. It corresponds better to the effects of these drugs than hallucinogenic or psychotomimetic. Another suitable designation would have been phantastica, coined by Louis Lewin in the 1920s, but it was not accepted in English-speaking countries.

High Times: You have described your psychoactive drug investigations as a “magic circle.” What do you mean?

Hofmann: My investigations of lysergic acid amides brought me to LSD. LSD brought the sacred Mexican mushrooms to my attention, which led to the synthesis of psilocybin, which in turn brought about a visit from Gordon Wasson and the subsequent investigations with ololiuqui. There I again encountered lysergic acid amides, closing the magic circle 17 years later.

High Times: Can you describe the events leading up to that?

Hofmann: After having studied the mushroom ceremony in Mexico during 1954 and 1955, Gordon Wasson and his wife invited the mycologist Roger Heim to accompany them on a further expedition in 1956 in order to identify the sacred mushroom.

He discovered that most of them were a new species belonging to the genus Psilocybe mexicana of the family of Strophariaceae. He was able to cultivate some of them artificially in his Paris laboratory, but after unsuccessful attempts to isolated the active principle, he sent the sacred mushrooms to the Sandoz laboratory in hopes that our experience with LSD would enable us to solve this problem. In a sense, LSD brought the sacred mushrooms to my laboratory.

We first tested the mushroom extract on animals, but the results were negative. It was uncertain whether the mushrooms cultivated and dried in Paris were still active at all, so in order to settle this fundamental point I decided to test them on myself. I ate 32 dried specimens of Psilocybe mexicana.

High Times: Isn’t that a large dose?

Hofmann: No. The mushrooms were very tiny, weighing only 2.4 grams—a medium dose by Indian standards.

High Times: What was it like?

Hofmann: Everything assumed a Mexican character. Whether my eyes were closed or open, I saw only Mexican motifs and colors. When the doctor supervising the experiment bent over to check my blood pressure, he was transformed into an Aztec priest, and I would not have been astonished had he drawn an obsidian knife.

It was a strong experience and lasted about six hours. The mushrooms were active; the negative results of the test with animals had been due to the comparatively low sensitivity of animals to substances with psychic effects.

High Times: Did you then proceed with the synthesis?

Hofmann: After this reliable test with human beings, meaning that my coworkers and I ingested the fractions to be tested, I extracted the active principles from the mushrooms, purified and finally crystallized them.

I named the main active principle of Psilocybe mexicana psilocybin and the accompanying alkaloid, usually present only in small amounts, psilocin. My co-workers and I were then able to elucidate the chemical structure of psilocybin and psilocin, and after that we succeeded in synthesizing these compounds.

The synthetic production of psilocybin is now much more economic than obtaining it from the mushroom. Thus teonanacatl was demystified —the two substances whose magic effects made the Mexican Indians believe for thousands of years that a god resided in a mushroom can now be prepared in a retort.

High Times: In one of his recorded lectures, Aldous Huxley described the delight of Wasson’s famous curandera, Maria Sabina of Huautla, upon ingesting psilocybin. She realized that she could now perform magic all year round, and not just during the mushroom season following the rains.

Hofmann: That was my psilocybin. When Wasson and I visited Maria Sabina there were no sacred mushrooms because it was so late in the season, so we provided her with pills containing synthetic psilocybin.

After taking a rather strong dose in the course of a nocturnal session, she said there was no difference between the pills and the mushrooms. “The spirit of the mushroom is in the pill,” she said—final proof that our synthetic preparation was identical in every respect with the natural product.

High Times: What prompted your investigations of ololiuqui, another of the Mexican sacred plants?

Hofmann: When Wasson came to Sandoz to view the synthetic psilocybin crystals in my laboratory, he was delighted that the results of our chemical investigation had confirmed his ethnomycological studies of the sacred mushroom. We became friends and made plans to further investigate Mexican sacred plants.

The next problem we decided to tackle was the riddle of ololiuqui, which is the Aztec name for the seeds of certain morning-glories. With Wasson’s help, I was able to obtain ololiuqui seeds collected by Zapotec Indians.

The chemical analysis of the ololiuqui seeds gave a quite surprising result. The active principle that we isolated proved to be lysergic acid amide and other ergot alkaloids.

High Times: So ololiuqui is chemically related to LSD ?

Hofmann: Yes. The main ololiuqui alkaloid is lysergic acid amide, which differs from LSD —from lysergic acid diethylamide—only by two ethyl radicals. I did not expect to find lysergic acid derivatives—which were known until then only as products of lower fungi of the ergot type—also in higher plants, in morning-glory species of the phanerogamic family of the Convolvulaceae.

My results were so surprising that the first paper I delivered on the subject in Melbourne in 1960 was received by my colleagues with skepticism. They would not believe me. “Oh, you have so much lysergic acid compounds in your laboratory, you may have contaminated your ololiuqui extracts with them,” they said.

High Times: What was the purpose of your journey to Mexico?

Hofmann: It was an expedition that Wasson organized in the autumn of 1962 to search for another, unidentified magic Mexican plant, namely the so-called hojas de la Pastora. We traveled by horseback on Indian trails through the Sierra Mazateca, finally arriving in time to assist in a nocturnal ceremony in the hut of a curandera who used the juice of the leaves of hojas de la Pastora.

Afterwards we were able to get some specimens of the plant. It was a new species of the mint family that was later identified botanically at Harvard University and named Salvia divinorum. Back in my laboratory at Sandoz, I had no success in extracting the active principle, which in Salvia divinorum is very unstable.

High Times: Are the psychoactive effects of Salvia divinorum similar to those of Psilocyhe mexicana and LSD?

Hofmann: Yes, but less pronounced.

High Times: What writers do you find to be the most successful in conveying the psychedelic experience in literature?

Hofmann: I find the best descriptions in Aldous Huxley’s books. After that I would say Timothy Leary and Alan Watts; in France, Henri Michaux.

In German literature. Rudolf Gelpke deserves to be named in this respect, but I don’t believe his works are available in English. “Von Fahrten in den Weltraum der Seele” [“Travels in the Cosmos of the Soul”], published in the journal Antaios in 1962, is especially fine.

I should also mention the new monograph by Dr. Stan Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious [New York: Viking, 1975], containing excellent descriptions of LSD sessions in the framework of psychiatric studies.

High Times: Did Herman Hesse or Carl Jung ever show an interest in your discovery?

Hofmann: I never met Hesse, but his books—especially The Glass Bead Game and Steppenwolf— have deeply interested me in connection with LSD research. It is possible that Hesse experimented with mescaline in the 1920s as some have supposed —I have no way of knowing. Outside of one brief meeting with Jung at an international congress of psychiatrists, I had no contact with him.

High Times: Did you ever meet Aldous Huxley?

Hofmann: Twice. I met him for lunch in Zurich in 1961, and again in 1963 when we were both in Stockholm attending the WAAS [World Academy of Art and Science] Conference, where the topics of overpopulation, depletion of natural resources and ecology in general were discussed. I was deeply impressed by Huxley: he radiated life, intelligence, kindness and openness —and he was of course extremely articulate.

High Times: What do you think of The Tibetan Book of the Dead as a guide to the psychedelic experience, as suggested by Huxley and the Harvard researchers, among others?

Hofmann: The general ideas and instructions on how to prepare and run a psychedelic session given there are the outcome of long experiences in this field and seem very valuable. What disturbs me is the use of the foreign Tibetan symbolism. I prefer that we remain within our own cultural framework—that we use symbols found in the writings of Western mystics such as Silesius, Eckhart, Boehme and Swedenborg.

High Times: What was your impression of Dr. Timothy Leary’s work with psychedelics?

Hofmann: I formed my first impression of Dr. Leary in 1963. At that time he was involved, together with his colleague Dr. Richard Alpert, at Harvard University in a project investigating the use of LSD and psilocybin in the rehabilitation of convicts. Dr. Leary sent me an order for 100 grams of LSD and 25 kilograms of psilocybin. Before the sales department of Sandoz could carry out the demand for this extraordinarily large quantity of psychedelic compounds we asked Dr. Leary to provide us with the necessary import license from the U.S. health authorities. He failed to provide it. The unrealistic manner with which he handled this transaction left the impression of a person unconcerned with the regulations of society.

I got a glimpse of another facet of his character when he invited me later the same year to participate in a meeting on drug research at Zihuatanejo, Mexico. He emphasized that radio, television and journalists of the most important mass media would be present, which revealed a very publicity-conscious personality.

High Times: You met with Leary later, didn’t you?

Hofmann: A decade later when Dr. Leary had escaped from prison and was living in exile in Switzerland. I was eager to meet him personally, having read so much in the press about him during the intervening period. On the third of September, 1971, the father and prophet of LSD met in Lausanne.

I was surprised to meet not a professorial type of scientist, nor a fanatic, but a slender, smiling, boyish man, representing rather a tennis champion than a Harvard professor.

During the course of our conversation. Dr. Leary gave me the impression of an idealistic person who believes in the transforming influence of psychedelic drugs on mankind, is conscious of the complexity of the drug problem and yet was careless of all the difficulties involved in the promotion of his ideas.

High Times: Apart from his personal style, what did you think of Dr. Leary’s ideas at the time of the Swiss meeting?

Hofmann: We were in agreement concerning the enormous importance of making a fundamental distinction between drugs. We agreed that the use of addiction-producing drugs, especially heroin with its disastrous somatic and psychic effects, should be avoided by any means possible. We agreed also in the evaluation of the potentially beneficial effects of psychedelic drugs. We disagreed as to the extent that psychedelics should be used and by whom.

Whereas Dr. Leary advocated the use of LSD under appropriate conditions by very young people, by teenagers, I insisted that a ripe, stable personality be a prior condition. Ripe because the drug can release only what is already in the mind. It brings in nothing new—it is like a key that can open a door to our subconscious. Stabilized because it needs spiritual strength for handling and integrating an overwhelming psychedelic experience into the existing Weltbild.

High Times: Does LSD possess aphrodisiac qualities?

Hofmann: Only in the sense that LSD adds new dimensions to all experiences, including of course the sexual.

High Times: Have you benefitted financially from your discovery of LSD?

Hofmann: No.

High Times: Sandoz is one of the largest pharmaceutical firms in the world. How did it deal with the manufacture and distribution of so controversial a substance as LSD?

Hofmann: It was clear from the very beginning that LSD, in spite of its extraordinary qualities, would not become a pharmaceutical preparation of commercial value. Notwithstanding this, Sandoz put enormous effort into the scientific investigation of the substance, showing the eminent role LSD could play as an excellent tool in brain research and in psychiatry.

Sandoz therefore made LSD available to qualified experimental and clinical investigators all over the world to promote such research with technical help and in many instances with financial support. Sandoz played a noble role in the scientific development of LSD.

High Times: Did Sandoz stop producing LSD because it was finding its way onto the black market?

Hofmann: At the onset of the LSD hysteria in 1965, Sandoz completely stopped the distribution of LSD for research purposes in order to avoid all possibility and to counteract false rumors that its LSD could find its way onto the black market.

Another reason was to force health authorities of different countries to provide adequate rules and regulations regarding the distribution of LSD. After this was accomplished, they again supplied LSD in America to the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] for distribution, but only to licensed investigators.

High Times: In the United States there has been a recent major investigation of improper LSD experiments carried out by the CIA, Army, Navy and other governmental agencies. Did they get their LSD from Sandoz just as Timothy Leary’s psychedelic research project at Harvard got theirs?

Hofmann: Sandoz supplied the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who then distributed it in America. Probably that is how the CIA and others got it.

High Times: Have you ever been approached by Soviet agents in need of Sandoz LSD or of your expertise?

Hofmann: This has not happened. I have learned from Swedish scientists in Stockholm that the Russians have studied LSD’s uses in military and parapsychological investigations, and that they were searching for an antidote. But the pharmaceutical firm of Spofa in Prague probably provided the LSD.

High Times: Are you familiar with the underground chemist, Stanley Owsley, who in the 1960s produced the most widely distributed black-market LSD?

Hofmann: I have heard his name mentioned in this context, but know nothing else about him.

High Times: What has been the purity of the black-market LSD that you’ve tested?

Hofmann: Some contained the “labeled” amount, some less. It’s difficult to make a stable preparation under less than perfect laboratory conditions. You must eliminate every trace of oxygen. Oxidation destroys LSD, as does light.

High Times: Are you familiar with an LSD-like substance called ALD-52 that figured prominently in an acid trial two years ago?

Hofmann: Yes. ALD-52 is Acetyl-LSD, a modification of LSD that proved to be as active, because acetyl is removed in the body and you have the effects of LSD. It has only been used experimentally. We sent it to the Drug Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, Kentucky, for testing some years ago.

High Times: What do you know about ketamine?

Hofmann: Ketamine is a totally synthetic psychedelic, unlike LSD, which is a seminatural product.

High Times: What is now known about the neurological effects of LSD and other psychedelics?

Hofmann: We know LSD concentrates in the hypothalamus, the same region of the brain where serotonin is found. This is the brain’s emotional center. But there still exists a big gap between the pharmacology of and the mechanisms underlying consciousness.

The problem is that the thought-function that you investigate is the same instrument you use for investigation.

High Times: For many people LSD provides what they describe as a religious experience. What are your feelings on this?

Hofmann: People for whom LSD provides a religious experience expect to have such an experience when they take it. Expectation —which is identical to autosuggestion—determines to a high degree what will happen in the session, because one of the most important features of the LSD state is its extreme suggestibility.

Another reason for the incidence of religious experiences is the fact that the very core of the human mind is connected with God. This deepest root of our consciousness, which in the normal state is hidden by superficial rational activities of the mind, may become revealed by the action of the psychedelic drug.

High Times: Is LSD an evolutionary agent?

Hofmann: Possibly. In the LSD state we may become conscious, in the words of Teilhard de Chardin, of the “entire complex of interhuman and intercosmic relations with an immediacy, an intimacy and a realism” that otherwise happens only in spontaneous ecstatic states and to a very few blessed people.

Agreement exists among spiritual leaders that the continuation of the present development, characterized by increasing industrialization and overpopulation, will result in the exhaustion of natural resources and destroy the ecological basis for mankind’s existence on this planet. This trend to self-annihilation is reinforced by international politics based on “power trips” and the preparation of weapons of apocalyptic potential.

This development can be stopped only by a change in the materialistic attitude that has caused this development. This change can result only from insight into the deepest spiritual roots of life and existence, from comprehensive use of all forces of our intelligence and all resources of our knowledge.

This intellectual approach, supplemented by visionary experience, could produce an alteration of the consciousness of truth and reality that could be of evolutionary significance. LSD selectively and wisely used could be one means of supplementing intellectual with visionary insight and helping the prepared mind become conscious of a deeper reality.

High Times: Did your LSD experiences change your personal life and tastes?

Hofmann: It increased my sensitivity to classical music—especially Mozart. My life habits did not change.

High Times: Has your wife also experimented with psychedelics?

Hofmann: Yes. Once in Mexico in the session with Salvia divinorum when I had some gastric trouble and could not ingest the juice, she took my place. She also took some of the psilocybin pills during the historic session when Maria Sabina confirmed their potency.

High Times: What general medical uses might LSD be marketed for in the future?

Hofmann: Very small doses, perhaps 25 micrograms, could be useful as a euphoriant or antidepressant.

High Times: Which of your works are available in English?

Hofmann: Several years ago Dr. Richard Evans Schultes of Harvard and I coauthored a book called The Botany and Chemistry of Hallucinogens. It is intended primarily to provide specialized students with basic knowledge of the botany and chemistry of hallucinogenic plants. I am currently writing my memoirs, but these will first be published in German.

High Times: What have you been doing since your retirement from Sandoz?

Hofmann: I retired in 1971 after 42 years with Sandoz. Since then I have been writing and lecturing on psychoactive drugs. Here at home I work in the orchard and run in the woods for exercise. It’s wonderful to be able to spend a great deal of time in unspoiled nature after decades of work in laboratories.

High Times: In his book Gravity’s Rainbow, the American author Thomas Pynchon has described a stained-glass window in your office at the otherwise dull Sandoz labs. Is this true?

Hofmann: That is true. It is now here in my house. Actually, it’s a modern glass in the old style depicting Asclepius and his mentor, the centaur Chiron.

High Times: Are the Swiss proud of your discovery of LSD and the synthesis of psilocybin and ololiuqui, or has the controversy surrounding these drugs dispelled that?

Hofmann: My discoveries have proved very controversial. Some consider these drugs to be diabolique, and a few clergymen asked me to confess mea culpa in public, but in professional circles my work has been appreciated. I’ve been honored by the National Polytechnic Institute here in Switzerland; by honorary degrees in natural science and in pharmacy from the Swedish Royal Pharmaceutical Institute, and in the United States by an honorary membership in the American Society of Pharmacognosy.

High Times: What made you decide to become a chemist?

Hofmann: I was interested in knowing what our world is made of. Chemistry is the science of the constituents of the world, so at age 19 I made the decision to become a chemist for both mystical-philosophical reasons and for reasons of curiosity.

High Times: Has LSD affected your philosophical outlook?

Hofmann: From my LSD experiments, including the very first terrifying one, I have received knowledge of not only one. but of an infinite number of realities. Depending upon the condition of our senses and psychic receptors we experience a different reality.

I realized that the depth and richness of the inner and outer universe are immeasurable and inexhaustible, but that we have to return from these strange worlds to our homeland and live here in the reality that is provided by our normal, healthy senses. It’s like astronauts returning from outer space flights: they must readjust to this planet.

In some of my psychedelic experiences I had a feeling of ecstatic love and unity with all creatures in the universe. To have had such an experience of absolute beatitude means an enrichment of our life.

High Times: How would you like the future ages to remember you and your discovery?

Hofmann: Perhaps the image of a chemist riding along on a bicycle on the very first LSD trip will change to the Old Man of the Mountain.

The post High Times Greats: Interview With Albert Hofmann, The Man Who First Synthesized LSD appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Interview With Herbert Huncke

Happy birthday to the late, great Herbert Huncke (1915-1996). Here’s Steven Hager’s interview with the beat pioneer from the September, 1990 edition of High Times.


Back in the 1950s, when Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs or Neal Cassady returned to New York City after a trip on the road, the first person they looked up was Herbert Huncke, a streetwise hustler who could usually be found hanging out in Times Square. Huncke served as mentor and guide to the Beat Generation and, according to Kerouac, even invented the term “beat.” In 1990, Paragon House published Huncke’s autobiography, Guilty of Everything, an entertaining trip through the drug subculture, from Prohibition-era Chicago to New York in the ’60s. Huncke came to the offices of High Times to discuss the book. Although addicted to hard drugs for much of his life, he was surprisingly chipper, witty, and entertaining.

High Times: When and where were you born?

Herbert Huncke: In Greenfield, Massachusetts, on January 9th, 1915. My father was from Chicago. He had a conservative German-Jewish background but I didn’t find out he was Jewish until I was 15. He always denied it. My mother was of English and French descent and was from a fairly well-off family. Her father was a cattle baron.

HT: You started running away from home at an early age.

HH: I started when I was 12. I went off the see the world and got as far as Chicago.

HT: When did you first smoke pot? Do you remember the first experience?

HH: No, I can’t recall the first time. I do remember the feeling of hilarity I got from it. One image rather clear in my mind is the feeling that my face was frozen into a smile I couldn’t break. You could buy six sticks for a quarter on West Madison Street in Chicago. And it was good pot. Mostly from Mexico. It was mostly Mexicans who dealt it. A Prince Albert can filled with pot sold for $1.50.

HT: What was cannabis called back then?

HH: It was referred to as “tea.” A joint was called a “stick.” As in “I’ll take a stick of tea.”

HT: When did you first find out about other drugs?

HH: I first read about opium when I read The Little White Hag. Don’t ask me the author’s name. It was an adventure story about opium dens and it was very lushly described. Smuggling on the high seas with Chinese pirates. Good escape reading.

HT: How did you get involved with opiates?

HH: When I was 14 I developed a friendship with a boy a year older than me and his sister. The three of us discovered a lot of things together. John Phillips was his name. Johnny died while making a delivery to a prostitute in a hotel. As he handed a delivery over, an agent stepped out. Johnny started to run. The agent shot and killed him.

HT: What drugs had you tried at this point?

HH: At that point I’d tried cocaine a couple of times, but I didn’t cotton to it. It was expensive and the sensation didn’t last long. Morphine, heroin. Those were the two main ones. I had tried some barbiturates. We were shooting right from the beginning.

HT: How did you end up in New York?

HH: New York was always my dream. Every time I broke free. I’d head for New York.

HT: The story goes you introduced William Burroughs to hard drugs.

HH: That’s true. My friend Phil and I had just come back from a trip to sea with the merchant marine. This was 1945, or ’46. Burroughs was introduced as a young man who’d taken care of Phil’s apartment. He supposedly had a sawed-off shotgun and a gross or two of morphine syrettes for sale. Phil and I had been using syrettes on the ship. We’d gone to sea to kick a heroin habit and ended up getting addicted to morphine. Bill had one stipulation before he sold the syrettes. He wanted to find out what shooting morphine was like. So Phil and I obliged.

HT: How was it Burroughs and you ended up going to Texas to grow pot?

HH: Well, we didn’t go together. He went with Joan. This is a long story.

HT: That’s okay. I think our readers might be interested.

HH: Bill’s family had decided after a couple of his escapades with the law that he should stay outside of New York. So he and Joan decided to go to Texas. Joan wanted to go to Mexico. She had always been interested in the Mayas. They got to looking around and decided to settle on a little piece of property outside of a town called New Waverly, about 50 miles from Houston. A beautiful place surrounded by bayous with raven-infested pine woods and cedar clusters, with a tiny weatherbeaten cabin on it. They sent for me, which was kind of interesting. I was on my way to Shanghai, but went to Texas instead.

HT: How did you get the seeds?

HH: I scuffled around Houston and made contact with a shoeshine man. I built up a friendship with him. Got my shoes shined and rapped with him. I told him I wanted some reefer. Then I asked for seeds. He gave me a bag of seeds for $40.

HT: Who tended the plants?

HH: We both did. Bill and I turned the soil over. I liked the digging part.

HT: Did either of you have any experience growing?

HH: I can’t speak for Bill. I didn’t have much. I’d been around gardens as a child, but hadn’t grown anything myself.

HT: Did you know the difference between male and female plants?

HH: Later on. By the time the plants started to grow the information seeped in from somewhere. It was all guesswork. The plants grew to around five feet in three months and then we harvested. We cut them down close to the ground, turned them upside down and hung them in a shed.

HT: Did you smoke any of it?

HH: Yes, of course. I always had a stick of it hanging out of my mouth. Bill was a latecomer to pot. He didn’t care for it. Now I understand he likes it quite a bit. We put it in mason jars, stalks and all, before it was completely cured. Neal Cassady, myself and Burroughs filled a jeep with calfskin bags stuffed with it. There was just enough room for us to squeeze into the jeep. We drove back to New York. We gave some away, downed a few jars ourselves.

HT: I read somewhere that you sold the entire carload for $50 to a bellhop in Times Square.

HH: Oh, please. That sounds like a Ginsberg statement.

HT: Can you tell me some of the famous beat books you’re in, and what the name of your character is in each book?

HH: I was Elmo Hassle in Kerouac’s On the Road; Herman something in Burrough’s Junky; I don’t remember what I was called in Go [by John Clellon Holmes]. There are quite a few of them, but I can’t remember. I think I’m even in Kerouac’s first book, Town and the City.

HT: Who is your favorite writer from the period?

HH: I have so many. Ed Dorn. His books have a certain warmth. Bill [Burroughs] has always fascinated me. He’s incredibly facile as a writer, well informed and a good sense of wit. Genet, of course. Sartre. Colette. Paul Bowles, Malcolm Lowry.

HT: Can you give me your impressions of a few people? How about Jack Kerouac?

HH: Enthusiastic, energetic. Had an intense desire to be creative, to express himself. He had many personal things that hung him up.

HT: Were Cassady and Kerouac lovers?

HH: Not to my knowledge. I’d doubt it very much. I don’t know why I’m so sure. But I just am. I think the extent of Kerouac’s homosexual experiences would have been a fast blow job. Cassady made no bones about being bisexual. I think Cassady was basically heterosexual.

HT: Allen Ginsberg.

HH: This is going to be a little tough. I respect Allen and admire his works. I don’t always agree with his viewpoints. We disagree on almost everything. I always thought he was a bit deceptive in the way he presents himself. He can be evasive.

HT: Neal Cassady.

HH: Just the opposite. He was like a big baby, bright eyed and looking at the world with love and hope.

HT: How do you feel about the current war on drugs?

HH: I think they should legalize drugs. That might be a huge answer to the problem. It’s so riddled with politics, money and corruption. I don’t know how to talk about drugs anymore. Everything is based so much on falseness anyway. I don’t like what’s happening with drugs. I think Thailand must be ideal. Nice little hill villages with the poppies growing right outside. Easygoing lifestyle and close to nature.

HT: What drugs do you still like?

HH: I smoke pot, drink alcohol—but not a lot. I don’t particularly like methadone, but I have a lot of respect for it. It’s kept me from suffering in a lot of cases. It’s legal—that’s the biggest advantage. I don’t think it’s done any real harm. My major objection is that it’s synthetic. But it’s the best thing they’ve got going now. I’m a heavy smoker of cigarettes. Drink coffee, tea. I guess I would like to be free to just smoke opium. But [laughs] other than that. I’ll take anything I can get. I like hard drugs. I like cocaine, contrary to the way I started out. But I think it’s probably one of the most destructive drugs in a funny way. No mercy shown there.

HT: Did you ever consider yourself a beatnik?

HH: No. I didn’t like the name. Or “beats.”

HT: But a lot of people consider you a prototype for the beatniks.

HH: I guess they do. In a way, I think it’s more Ginsberg than me.

HT: What do you think of the different generations that have come and gone in New York?

HH: All these generations passed by and they were all about the same to me. The first time I became conscious of something different was when the yuppies first emerged. [Laughs.] First time I heard the word “yuppie” I didn’t want to tell the person I didn’t know what it meant. I kept looking for the type. All of a sudden I became aware that I was surrounded by them in every direction. The other day I met three guys from Princeton. They dressed alike, looked alike, spoke alike. And in three hours they didn’t say anything of any substance. It’s pretty scary to see a whole generation that’s almost identical. But there’s still a lot of individuality on the Lower East Side in New York.

I don’t know too much about today’s younger generation. I used to pride myself on being in touch with the young crowd. But now they are talking a language that I don’t savvy quite as thoroughly as I once did. We all know drugs are symptomatic of a badly-adjusted society. We’re going to have this problem as long as our society remains as it is. You cannot have corruption at the top of a country or at the head of a city and not expect that corruption to make its way down to the streets. You cannot have money as the only factor in life and expect anything but shit as a result.

What kind of a civilization are we heading toward, with thirteen-year-old drunkards? Today, liquor is the big problem. I don’t see anything clearly, except that I believe somehow underneath it all there’s something there that is good. I would like to see man find his niche in the scheme of things. Maybe he has found it—maybe this is the way it should be. Maybe all this confusion is necessary. Something good may come out of it, but I guess we won’t know about it. Perhaps this will all explode and enrich some other planet somewhere else. I don’t think anything is wasted, that much I do believe. But in the meantime, we try to get by the best way we can.

The post High Times Greats: Interview With Herbert Huncke appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: Trippin’ With Elvis At Graceland

Elvis Presley was born January 8, 1935 and died August 16, 1977. For an article in the February, 2003 edition of High Times, writer Chris Simunek and his friend Stephen E. Lewis took a road trip to Graceland to find out what it is about Elvis that still makes people go nuts.

How Great Thou Art

I’ll never forget being four years old and watching Elvis’s “Aloha from Hawaii” satellite broadcast back in ’73. My diaper days were behind me, I owned the fastest Big Wheel on the block, and now this: a comic-book man-god dressed in a red-white-and-blue American eagle suit and cape, singing “Dixie” with sweat running from his eyes like tears. It would remain the coolest image of my life until I caught my first glimpse of tit a year later. The future seemed blessed with an infinite amount of fun and adventure, and I never considered the fact that Elvis might not be there with me for the long haul.

People talk about all the drugs Elvis did and what a mess he was at the end. I’ve seen those videos of the guy in ’77, overweight, wearing an Aztec sundial jumpsuit, and singing “My Way” with half the Physician’s Desk Reference swimming through his bloodstream. I mean, if you can’t see for yourself just how cool that is, then I don’t have the time to explain it to you.

Elvis’s death on August 16, 1977, is one of those benchmark dates by which I chart the long journey from my happy childhood to the desperate and confusing present. Elvis provided a living example of this “cool” thing that the Fonz was always talking about, and he made some great records to boot. My decision to make the pilgrimage to Graceland for Elvis Week this year was made out of an obligation I felt I had to a man who gave much and asked for nothing in return. Anyway, it beat sitting around in New York waiting for Osama’s dirty bomb.

You can drive to Memphis from Washington, DC in 20 hours if you drink giant cups of coffee, eat a lot of ephedrine, and feed your CD player a steady diet of Mississippi Delta blues. At least that’s the way I did it, swapping the driver’s seat every six hours with my friend Steve Lewis, creator of paintings and woodcuts that contain enough unadulterated id to curdle the milk in Freud’s morning coffee.

“Do you know that Elvis’s overriding obsession toward the end of his life was to star as a badass black-belt detective, kind of like Shaft meets Bruce Lee, in the greatest karate movie ever made?” I asked Steve as we cruised south on Interstate 81. “In the last scene of the movie, Elvis wanted to appear on a mountaintop in his karate outfit; then he wanted the camera to pan back and reveal that beneath him, as far as the eye could see, people were doing karate with him—all races, all nations, just one great, unified world, kicking the air with the King.”

“When they talk about the tragedy of a man getting cut down young and not being able to fulfill his destiny on earth,” Steve asserted, “that’s what they mean.”

From the stereo, Charlie Patton sang, “The Lord sends us sunshine, the Devil he sends us rain….”

At dawn we crossed the border from Virginia to Tennessee. Nashville was kind enough to sell us some biscuits and gravy and sing us a few songs about lost loves and squandered lives; then, with trembling hands, we drove the last three hours to Memphis in time to catch the 25th birthday of Elvis Presley’s death.

Elvis Presley Boulevard glistened under the blinding light of the southern summer sun. Outside the Graceland mall a video screen flashed images of a young and beautiful Elvis to the faithful. It was a lovely sight—people wearing Elvis T-shirts buying Elvis ashtrays while Elvis hamburgers dripped ketchup in their hands.

Locating the press office behind the manor, Steve and I went to see what sort of journalistic handouts EP Enterprises had for us. After signing a legal document basically promising not to use any photographs we might take of Graceland for anything anywhere at anytime, we managed to walk out of the place emptyhanded. Our interview queries were laughed at, and our requests for tickets to “The Concert,” where Elvis’s video ghost was to sing along with the live backing of his old TCB band, were scorned.

“I can’t help you,” the publicist explained as she slurped from a can of Pepsi with Elvis’s face on the side. She pointed to the door and the melee forming outside and said, “Your story is out there.”

Steve turned to me and said, “Do you get the impression that maybe there’s a jar somewhere with Colonel Parker’s brain in it that’s calling all the shots?” There was more than one king to pay tribute to on this day. Climbing back in the rental, we continued the journey south to Mississippi, birthplace of the blues.

Hellhound On My Trail

Coincidence, or the result of intense planetary forces? Elvis shares a deathday with none other than Robert Johnson, king of the Delta blues singers. Two kings struck down by fate on August 16, 39 years apart. I personally don’t buy the story about Robert Johnson’s Faustian deal with Lucifer. The way I see it, if the man did sell his soul at the crossroads, he wouldn’t have died penniless, the victim of a pint of poisoned whiskey.

The moment we crossed the border from Tennessee to Mississippi, everything changed. Gone were the Tiger Marts and the Taco Bells, replaced by mystic cotton fields and the occasional bait-and-tackle shop. Legend has it that the crossroads is the intersection of Highways 49 and 61, about an hour south of Graceland. I took over the driving as Steve sat back and hit the peace pipe.

Flipping through the AM stations, Steve found an evangelist who asked the question: “Is your heart right with God? If he should call on you today, where would you spend eternity?”

It was an awful question, really. If I die and it turns out that the Arabs are right, I’ll spend eternity on my knees shaving corns off the Ayatollah Khomeini’s feet. In the Judeo-Christian afterlife, it won’t be much better. With all my moral transgressions, I’m a sure bet for purgatory, and I don’t exactly relish the thought of spending a 2000-year penance teaching some Osmond family troglodyte how to read.

So as Mississippi rolled past my window, damp and green like an American Eden, I figured I was already fucked in the afterlife, so why not visit the Devil and at least get a price quote on my thus far useless immortal soul?

“I don’t know about this soul-selling business,” Steve confessed. “I mean, your soul is the only thing separating you from, like, Will Smith.”

His point was well taken, but I had other reasons for wanting to commune with Satan. I had questions that could only be answered by an eternal being, like why is it that a nice guy like Elvis has to die at 42, heartbroken over a woman and unable to get his karate movie off the ground, while Ronald Reagan lives a long, vicious life and gets to spend his autumn days pampered and spoon-fed, his conscience wiped as clean as a newborn baby’s?

At the crossroads there was grass, a few vine covered trees in the distance, and not a whole lot else. It was a blank stretch of land waiting for travelers to come and write their destinies in its dirt. About 100 yards north there was an old Confederate cemetery.

“Our best bet is probably the boneyard,” Steve guessed. “I think the Devil is supposed to appear as an old black man.”

“I always figured the devil would look something like Jann Wenner,” I replied.

The wind and rain had beaten the headstones so smooth you couldn’t read the names anymore. The first Americans ever to lose a war rested peacefully without comment. Stone lambs marked the graves of dead children. I was envious of the little things. The rest of us have to live long, complicated lives that take dozens of years to end.

“I don’t see anything particularly evil,” Steve surmised.

Back in the car, we drove north towards Memphis. As Robert Johnson wondered aloud what the world would be like if he had possession over Judgment Day, our vehicle approached some kind of animal in the road. Trapped in the meridian, chasing its tail, taunting death, was a large black dog.

“Maybe we should whack that dog,” I suggested as we passed it. “Satan likes shit like that.”

“I think you’re losing focus here,” Steve concluded. Looking in my rearview mirror, I watched the thing jump up on its hind legs. It stood there for a moment, watching us disappear. I don’t know whether it was the trucker speed playing tricks with my eyes, but for a second I thought I saw it wave its paw at us.

“Jesus,” I mumbled, pressing on the accelerator. “I really need some sleep.”

The Electric Graceland Elvis Test

After a fitful nap in a faceless Memphis hotel, Steve and I swallowed a couple of hits of LSD and caught a cab down to the candlelight vigil. The vigil was started back in ’79 by 30 or so members of the Elvis Country Fan Club. Today, attendance was expected to be near 40,000. A thunderstorm was in full swing when we arrived at the gates of Graceland. A line of soaking-wet white people wound its way from the street up the driveway and into the Meditation Garden, where the mortal remains of Elvis, Gladys, and Vernon Presley waited to be viewed. Estimated wait: eight hours.

Steve and I stood outside the driveway and watched people exit the gravesite. Men and women hugged, mothers and daughters held hands with glassy eyes. They all wore the joyous expressions of the newly blessed.

An Elvis lookalike with bandages on his face left the driveway in tears. I have no respect for an Elvis impersonator without any visible scars, and this guy looked as though he’d been called upon to defend the King’s honor many times. He was approached by a silver-haired woman with a shirt that read Elvis Presley Friendship Circle. As she wrapped her arms around him, he let it all go into the soft meat of her shoulder.

I saw a few other Elvis Friendship people standing near the gates. The acid was kicking in: It was time to be social.

The first woman I approached, Jane Anderson, turned out to be the president of the Elvis Presley Friendship Circle. The club formed back in ’81 in Shreveport, LA. Tonight they were standing “honor guard” at the gates, meaning they assisted in handing out candles for the vigil and giving moral support to the bereaved.

“What’s Elvis’s lasting contribution to your life?” I asked her.

“Fie makes me real happy with his music and all the friends I’ve met through the years. I would never have known these people,” she gestured to the other Elvis Friends who were gathering around us, “if it hadn’t been for Elvis.”

Another member of the Circle, Barbara Bradley, first heard Elvis 47 years ago, and had even seen him at the Louisiana Hayride in ’54, a full two years before he cut “Hound Dog.”

“How did you first hear that there was something called Elvis that you should go see?” I asked.

“I’m a girl,” she laughed.

“So you were one of those screaming female fans you always see on TV?”

“Yeah. As soon as he came out, all the girls talked about his legs. He was something different.” “You won’t believe what they’re asking us at the press tent,” Jane told me. “Let’s get one thing straight: We’re not weirdos, we’re not praying to Elvis. He’s no god.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” I asserted. “This is a social outing. Everybody hangs out, talks about how cool Elvis is, and has a good time. It doesn’t strike me as being weird.”

“Thank you.”

“Tell me this: What is it about Elvis?”

“There’s a saying in the Elvis world,” Jane explained. “If you don’t understand, if you don’t get it, we can’t explain it. He was just the best. What was there before Elvis? Frank Sinatra, Patti Page. There was good black music, but we hadn’t heard it.”

“What’s the official Elvis Friendship Circle opinion on Colonel Tom Parker? I think he was evil.”

“Notice we’re not arguing with you.”

“I mean, the Colonel kept Elvis on the road when he was all sick and fat—”

“Don’t say that word!” Jane demanded.

“What, fat?”

“You’re asking for it, mister. I saw him in March of seventy-seven, and he was not that word that you said.”

“He always sang great,” I offered.

“His voice just got better and better.”

“I mean, he might not have known exactly where he was all the time—”

“Don’t start! I’ll break that tape recorder over your head.”

“So I like to poke a little fun at the guy. I mean, who doesn’t?”

“WE DON’T!”

“There’s your answer,” Steve smirked.

“So are you going to wait on the line?” Jane asked me.

“Jane, believe me when I tell you there are unnamed forces at work right now that will not allow me to wait on line for eight hours.”

“You say you’re an Elvis fan; well, this is the way we pay tribute.” She pointed to the gates. “Do your thing.”

“Yeah, man,” Steve laughed. “What kind of fan are you?”

“You know one person who never waited on line for anything?” I asked Jane.

“Who?”

“Elvis.”

“Believe me, mister, you are not Elvis. Now go!” she commanded. She was a tough little lady, I can’t argue with that. “Just remember what we said: Don’t use that word in your article, because we’ll hunt you down. We have connections worldwide.”

The idea that there was an international legion of silver-haired ladies protecting the legacy of the King was so sweet I almost cried.

The sound system was broadcasting some of the worst Elvis songs I’d ever heard, those turgid ballads that he loved so much. “I’ll Remember You” and “Memories” and a whole bunch of other songs that neither rocked nor rolled. The acid was not pleased with this. The acid enjoyed talking to the ladies of the Elvis Friendship Circle. The acid did not like the rain, however, and it was really taking exception to the music.

The biggest problem for the acid was that no one seemed to be worshipping the Total Elvis. They’d isolated the Pious Elvis and the Lovelorn Elvis while ignoring completely Elvis the Pelvis and the Elvis Who Just Wanted to Swallow a Shoebox Full of Pills and Buy Cadillacs for All His Friends.

We found sanctuary at Rockabilly’s Diner across the street, a crowded faux-’50s restaurant where they sold beer and hamburgers under oppressive fluorescent lights. We bought beers and took a seat next to a barking woman in a wheelchair. Where her knees and thighs and ankles had been, there was now only art. As I contemplated her unique beauty, I could see Steve was having a bit of a problem.

“Rejoice,” I told him. “God has chosen her for this.”

“Dude, I’m tripping….

I couldn’t convince him. We had to leave.

By that point, the line had become more than a challenge: It was a rite. There was something on that line that I was unprepared for, some truth I wasn’t ready to witness.

But when I got outside and looked at the video screen and saw a lean, mean Elvis singing “If I Can Dream” from the ’68 “Comeback Special,” dressed in white, with that hair, that jet-black mane that looked like it had been hand-woven by God, I just couldn’t look the man in his video eye and tell him no.

“Elvis gave us everything he had,” I reasoned, the acid cutting through my reservations and making clear my debt. “The least we can do is wait on this stupid line.”

Too Much

I entered the procession a Homo sapien, but by the end of the second hour my posture was stooped and I began grunting like some drug-ravaged missing link. Acid needs something to do, and in the absence of any activity, it had decided to take me on a journey backwards through all stages of human evolution. After five hours I was little more than a puddle of primordial sludge, crawling across the sands of time back to the ocean where my ancestors began.

An old man behind us pointed to the colored gels illuminating Graceland’s expansive lawn and said, “These are my lights. I did all the electricity in this place. I knew Elvis.”

“In what way did you know him?” I asked.

“I just told you. I did the electricity in this place.” A few young, commercial-looking Elvis impersonators posed for TV cameras in front of us. A morning news anchor interviewed them.

“That’s a disgrace,” the electrician-to-the-stars behind me said.

“Why?”

“It’s exploitation. A damn disgrace,” the electrician repeated.

I did him one better. “We should cut their heads open and pour salt into their brains so ideas like this can never grow there again.”

He was quiet for a few minutes, then turned to the guy behind him and said, “These are my lights….”

A line of candle-holding supplicants stretched from the Meditation Garden across the lawn and back to the street. The sun was coming up, casting a wet blue light over the proceedings. As we entered the gravesite, there were all sorts of tributes left by fans. I was struck by a photo of Elvis from the late ’70s, stoned out of his gourd, leering at the audience as if amazed by the fact that so many people loved him. There were flowers, teddy bears, and American flags piled so high on the graves you almost couldn’t see where it explained the reasoning behind Elvis’s tragic death.

Etched in his gravestone were the words “God saw that he needed some rest and called him home to be with Him.”

Most stared silently at the flat stone monuments, but one lady next to me was sobbing aloud, wiping her nose with a tissue. “They try and rush you out,” she confessed to me, “but I can’t go.”

“Is Jesse Garon buried here?” I asked, Jesse Garon being Elvis’s stillborn twin brother.

“There’s a marker.” She pointed at a little stone. “They don’t know where his body is, and that’s good. Can you imagine what people might do with something like that?”

“You’re right,” I consoled the woman. “It’s best this way.”

I walked away, thinking, “Damn, how cool is it to have all these people, twenty-five years later, still fucked up over the fact that you’re dead?” As we walked out of the driveway, the Elvis Friendship Circle laughed at us.

“How was it?” Jane asked. Steve muttered something about the Bataan Death March while I ran into the street in search of taxicabs and hard liquor.

Anyplace is Paradise

Rain fell from the sky in unending lines as our cab entered the freeway and headed back toward the hotel. The acid had leveled off, leaving me with the feeling that everything has the potential to be beautiful if you catch it at the right moment, even forest fires and traffic jams. The world was so pretty I couldn’t imagine ever leaving it for heaven or hell or any other ethereal resting place. I’d rather stay here a ghost and haunt the living.

The driver who escorted us back to our hotel had an Elvis story of his own, which I listened to while the acid turned every car on the highway to gold.

“I picked this couple from Alaska up, took ’em to this Elvis sock-hop kind of thing. The woman turns to me and says, ‘We have it on very good authority that Elvis is still alive….’ She told me that Elvis had met this man who was dying of some kind of terminal illness and noticed that they were the same height and build. Elvis said, ‘I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll pay for you to have plastic surgery so you look identical to me. That way when you die, people will think it’s me and I can have a life of peace, and I’ll give your family a couple million dollars to live on.’ According to this couple from Alaska, he’s living somewhere in South America, and they’re ninety-nine percent sure it’s Guatemala.”

Steve and I both got a good laugh out of that one. Wouldn’t that just be the best? If E. was chilling down there, practicing karate on the beach, listening to the sound of one hand clapping and all that? But he ain’t. He’s toast. He died on the can. He was one of us.

It must be nice to be Elvis and have all these people weeping over your dust 25 years after you’re gone, but I don’t see it happening that way for you or me. We get to rot beneath a stone marker next to people we’ve never met. If you ask me, it’s a lousy payoff.

Looking out the window at the wet highway gave me another idea. What if I were to be buried right there on the side of the interstate? Just give me one of those little white crosses they mark the sites of fatal accidents with so thousands of people can pass it on their way to work and wonder, “Who was that person? Someone’s husband or child? A drunk driver? Was he a reckless idiot or just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time?”

And from beneath the earth, I will be so happy. “Yes! Yes!” my ghost will gladly acknowledge. “I was all those things and even a few more. Thank you so much for asking….”

The post High Times Greats: Trippin’ With Elvis At Graceland appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Nikola Tesla

To commemorate Nikola Tesla’s death on January 7, 1943 at the age of 86, we’re republishing Michael Olshan’s article from the August, 1981 edition of High Times.


This is a story about a man who enjoyed few things in life more whole-heartedly than to pump thousands of volts of electric current through his body, with sizzling arcs of Technicolor lightning forking and clashing around him like all Frankenstein, causing banks of electric bulbs to flash on and off with every shake of his head, and causing steel plates to dissolve at the mere touch of his forefinger. This man for amusement would summon thunderbolts down out of the open sky; once he touched off an earthquake that nearly devastated New York City from the Bowery to the Brooklyn Bridge.

At the same time he was unable to shake hands with human beings—because he was scared to death of “germs.” His closest friends were nevertheless city pigeons, who nested by the score in any place where he lived. His name was Nikola Tesla. Someday his craziness may set us all free forever, or it might just kill us all.

Consider this compass, ladies and gentlemen. The needle always points north. That’s the secret, understand? It doesn’t do anything itself, it only points north. It does nothing itself, but something is being done to it, all the time. Anywhere you go in this world, this needle will always be made to point north, or south, if you happen to be on that side of the equator. If you point it in any other direction with your finger—like so, see?—something draws it back to northward. Everywhere you go, something works on this compass needle.

This thing that works, ladies and gentlemen—this power—is at work everywhere, all the time. It works everywhere, continuously forever and for nothing. For free! Free power, fools, do you understand it and what it means? It looks deceptively weak and simple here—a little magnetized needle, afloat on a cork in water, pointing simply but steadily to the north. But think! If we can tap into this power, it will be colossal beyond imagining, and everlasting, and totally free.

These are hard times, ladies and gentlemen. We are poor, desperately poor, and getting poorer all the time. But all around us we have this invisible power, free, if we will only tap into it. How should we beggar ourselves by ignoring this power, and impoverish our children yet unborn? Imbeciles! Lunatics! Can’t you see it’s free???

That was always Nikola Tesla’s problem. His energy was free, and so how then could it possibly find any buyers?

He couldn’t sell it in Europe, for sure. This Serbian engineer sustained his great, shattering energy intuition in his early 20s—a wonderful epiphany that occurred on a balmy pigeon-fluttering afternoon in a park in Budapest, Hungary when he was working for Continental Edison, formed by Old Tom of the same name back in New Jersey USA. While everyone at Continental Edison was properly thrilled by Tesla’s new concepts (as much of them as they could comprehend, anyway), no one there had the authority to put them into practice. They were, the simplest of them, horrendously revolutionary.

Take Mr. Edison’s cherished direct-current (DC) electronics system. With all due respect to the founder of Continental, this is a frustratingly limited and inefficient way to pump electrical energy along copper wires. If we must use copper wires, or wires at all (there are better ways, fools!), then why must we be hamstrung with direct current?

Observe how pitifully it works. We have to build and operate a separate generating station for every mile of DC wire, because that’s as far as you can pump electricity through copper wires with DC. And the generator itself! Disgraceful! Those horrid wire brushes spinning in metal drums, shedding all that horrible racket; those flaring sparks, heating until the brushes melt, that’s noise! Light! Heat! Power! It’s all power; and it’s being wasted right there in the bloody generator!

And the power that’s left is sluiced into the copper wires and pours down along them like water. Like water! God in heaven, are we working with 19th-century electronics or mere Archimedean hydraulics? Just like the tenants at the top floor of a tenement enjoy hardly any water pressure at all (hydraulics! Feh!), so also the people toward the one-mile limit of DC propulsion have dimmer lights that flicker wretchedly.

It would be so simple and economical to improve all this, improve it far beyond recognition. Merely close the DC rotor coils and energize them by magnetic induction! Stationary field coils carrying multiphase alternating current! Alternating current (AC), a cyclone of electromagnetism! Cheap, smooth, silent, sparkless, colossal electric power. So much power from one generator that you could feed it literally thousands of miles, all around the world. So much power that instead of building auxiliary generators every mile, you would have to build transformer units especially to step the current down, after you siphon it off the main feeder cable, so that it doesn’t short out every light bulb and icebox in the district. Would this not be a wonderful thing, so simple and so much better? If you must use wires at all, by God, sirs, this is how it ought to be done. Without those cursed wires, of course, you could merely…

Well, yes, Nikola, very illuminating. They promoted him to the Paris office of Continental Edison, and when they couldn’t keep a lid on him there, either, they bought him deck passage on a steamer to New York and then shipped him out in the fall of 1884, with letters of respectful recommendation to Old Tom himself. Typically of his life, somebody trotted off with all Tesla’s luggage at the Paris railroad terminal, and somebody else lifted his wallet. Only his photographic memory with his passage-ticket number indelibly imprinted on it, got him on the boat. On the way across, he blundered by absent-minded accident into a free-for-all among the crew members, complete with brass knucks and belaying pins. He cleared immigration at Battery Park in Manhattan with just four cents, a dramatic assortment of livid bruises decorating his dark and handsome features, and the very important communications to Mr. Edison in his pocket.

Alternating current would be a conspicuous savings for Old Tom, sure enough. Imagine: no more big complicated power stations for every single mile of Edison wire. A whole hell of a lot less work, by God, for all the contractors and construction workers of New York and New Jersey. Since Consolidated Edison, Inc., was then (and still is) one of the main contracting and construction companies in New York and New Jersey Old Tom was damned if he’d fool around with this newfangled AC booshwah. Terrible dangerous idea, Old Tom called it. All that electricity all over, trillions of volts maybe, terrible, terrible dangerous. Think of the children! Enough of ’em fried themselves dead every year on low-test, old-fashioned Edison DC. And now some crazy Serb wants to have trillions of volts sizzling all up and down the whole blame country? Unthinkable. Irresponsible. Obscene!

So Old Tom securely deep-sixed Nikola Tesla’s alternating-current proposal, and to keep an eye on him made him a company troubleshooter. Poor Tesla spent a year at it, conscientiously railroading all over the Con Ed system, going nights on end without sleep, haranguing plant foremen, hand-correcting shoddy repairs, and just generally studying the hell out of this Stone Age DC system.

Most of the time he spent on the drawing board, scribbling away feverishly. And presently he came to Old Tom with a sheaf of blueprints: improved generator designs, streamlined switching systems, efficient cable weave, the very best and most cost-efficient technology that could ever be designed for direct-current electronic transmission. Old Tom was hearty and generous: “There’s fifty thousand dollars in it for you if you can do it!” he guaranteed the kid, with a manly slap on the back, and a hearty American handshake that raised the hair on the back of Nikola’s neck.

So Nikola Tesla proceeded to put through the U.S. Patent Office no fewer than 24 applications for brilliant new dynamo designs and support systems. All were duly approved, in the name of Consolidated Edison, Inc. And when Nikola went to Old Tom for that 50K, Old Tom damn near threw out another hernia laughing. “Tesla, you don’t understand our American sense of humor!”

Nikola Tesla, of gentle European descent, certainly did not understand any such cheating, abominable thing. He had a most infernal sense of honor and decency, in fact. Before Old Tom could even get around to citing the drastically reduced sum he’d really meant to pay this troublemaking young Serb, he was astonished to see Tesla turn elegantly on his heel and stalk silently off the Con Ed premises, forever.

Hard times loomed.The railroads, the telegraph, and this rudimentary DC system had all been laid out, all over America, over a ten-year binge of industrial speculation and investment, but by the ’80s industrial capital was in short supply. The major investors and developers, like Edison and J.P. Morgan and Jay Gould and so on, were content now to assemble their assets, accumulate their coupons, and fight over what was left in vicious boardroom battles on Wall Street. Meanwhile, they weren’t hiring, so everyone was out of work. And they certainly weren’t buying ideas like this new AC nonsense of Tesla’s, which would complicate their profit taking intolerably by sparking a new binge of speculation and investment.

There was independent money around, though, if you lucked into it. By sheer luck, Nikola Tesla wound up in 1885 digging ditches in New York, on a labor squad directed by a foreman who happened to be an electronics-gadgetry nut. This crazy Serb, needless to say, just by leaning over his shovel and opening his mouth, could bedazzle an electronics-gadgetry nut for hours on end, company time. This foreman happened to have a little gelt salted away and so did some of his Long Island friends. And Nikola Tesla was a magnificent rapper, so long as you didn’t go aggressively shaking his hand, slapping his back, and insisting on direct eye contact throughout the conversation.

The Tesla Electric Company was duly set up, with minimal investor bread, on West Broadway and Bleecker Street, where SoHo now starts. It took Nikola only a few months to whip together a working model of an AC generator—though it took months more to get it through the bedazzled U.S. Patent Office, where the bedazzled officers insisted on seven different basic-concept blueprint designs for it. At the end of the first year, Nikola Tesla personally held 30 basic patents: motors, alternators, transformers and control systems for one-, two-and three-part AC transmitters. As he got deeper into it all, he began observing terrific new things about basic physics itself, things a person could never put down on a patent form.

He got rich, after a fashion, for a while. In 1888 he gave a historic speech on AC before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. One of the auditors was George Westinghouse, the erstwhile railroad whiz who’d invented the railroad air brake and gotten enormously rich. Recognizing pneumatics as a fairly dead-end field for industrial development, and having no vested interests in DC, Westinghouse was ready to plunge. The Gay ’90s were palpably in the wind now; there was the smell of new investments, new inventions everywhere. This 32-year-old Serb had clearly come up with a better mousetrap. Westinghouse gave him $1 million cash for the title to all his patents so far, and guaranteed him a $1 royalty—U.S. and foreign—for every unit of horsepower his system might generate.

Nikola Tesla’s salad days were brief, but magnificently overcivilized. Having a half million bucks in the bank (he very scrupulously split 50-50 with his investors), Nikola proceeded to take out a suite at the wonderful Waldorf-Astoria, crème de la creme of international hostelry. He appeared in the dining room promptly at eight each evening, in black tuxedo with crimson cummerbund, and ate alone at a private table.

Women were crazy about him, of course. This darkly handsome, sleek and burning-eyed genius, a millionaire at 32, unattached, mysterious, cultivated, continental, affable, eloquent, and just a trace obviously mad—he was so very altogether delicious, Sarah Bernhardt herself made disgracefully public overtures to him, to the delight of the Hearst scandalmongers.

It came to nothing but headlines. When Nikola Tesla died, it appears that he was as innocent of the so-called pleasures of the flesh as he’d been the day he was born—86 years of unrippled, unfrustrated celibacy. The belles of Manhattan gave up on him early, reluctantly but realistically. The man never spoke to anyone at the Waldorf until he had eaten, resolutely alone. While he ate, he generally had the waiter hand him about two dozen freshly starched and laundered linen handkerchiefs in succession. After dinner, in the main saloon, he was dependably captivating and loquacious, even fiery when it came to his revolutionary new physical technology—unless some aggressive investor or debutante came up and forcibly grabbed his hand and pumped it in introduction, whereupon poor Nikola would queasily excuse himself and spend ten minutes in the lavatory scrubbing each possibly contaminated finger with special antiseptic soap. And you only saw him in the early evening. The rest of the time, when civilized investors or debutantes were either dancing the night away or nursing the daylight hangovers, this crazy Serb was working on his draftboard, or in his electric company.

Nikola Tesla was, by any scale of sociability, a cold fish.

But just visit his Bleecker Street lab, and dear God what a display! No decent mad-scientist movie will ever be made without using the flashing, bursting, smashing, dazzling glass-and-steel electrical incunabula with which Nikola Tesla merely amused himself, to impress visitors and to kick the ass of old Tom Edison.

Edison, of course, was desperately filling the Hearst papers with scientific-sounding jeremiads about the certain and horrible consequences of this alternating-current witchcraft. Goddammit, it just produced too much juice, Old Tom wailed, the world wasn’t ready for it. “Just as certain as death,” he guaranteed the papers, “Westinghouse will kill a customer within six months after he puts in a system of any size.” To prove it, Edison got a lot of people physically killed, dead forever, with this newfangled Tesla-Westinghouse AC.

The first AC casualty was one William Kemmler. Kemmler had been duly convicted of chopping several people up with an ax and was sitting on Death Row at Sing-Sing, waiting remorsefully to be duly hanged, when Old Tom pressured the Auburn administrators into installing a primitive AC “humane execution” unit. The unit took the form, now archetypal, of a steel chair frame outfitted with a steel bonnet and leather shackles. Kemmler, uncomprehending but ready to pay for his crimes, duly sat down in it and was strapped in tight. Contrary to Old Tom’s prediction, the 10,000 or so volts of AC didn’t instantly put out all Kemmler’s interior lights; the amperage wasn’t nearly high enough. It took six successive jolts to put Kemmler entirely on the Yonder Side, by which time the Death House at Sing-Sing smelled like a Boy Scout barbecue. “I would rather see ten hangings’,’ the phsyician in attendance estimated, “than one execution like this.”

It was an equivocal demonstration of the lethality of the “Westinghouse current,” as Old Tom was calling it, but it caught on eventually and people are using it today to fry each other legally. With proper modifications, Edison showed the Hearst papers how you could fry live dogs, calves, and ultimately a horse. But it never got him anywhere. Inside ten years, Edison was renting AC from Westinghouse by the megawatt.

At least Old Tom had the cold comfort of knowing that none of the money he paid for Westinghouse juice was going to its abominated developer, Nikola Tesla. The impudent Serb had put on some stupendous stage shows at the height of the electric-chair controversy. This is where he would galvanize and disintegrate metal plates with his bare fingers, strobing and flaring magnificently in his tux and cummerbund, before awed thousands at the Academy of Music and Carnegie Hall. It wasn’t the voltage, he’d solemnly explain in his lugubrious Lugosi accent, as thousands of volts flickered through his sleek black hair follicles, it was the amperage that put the kick in the juice. Then he’d hit an amp switch, and rainbows of sizzling electromagnetism would shoot up into the rafters, leaving folks blinking away the retinal afterimages for ten minutes.

The performances were so—well—electrifying, that the promoters of the very first World’s Fair, the Columbia Exposition in Chicago, 1893, picked the Westinghouse current for illumination, despite all Edison’s propaganda. Nikola did such an extravagant job of wiring the place up, George Westinghouse actually wound up slightly in the hole because of it. Or so he told Nikola, anyway. George’s creditors, he presently told Tesla with convincing trepidation, were about to call in his slips, but he didn’t personally have the collateral to cover them all. If they were to put the squeeze on him now, Westinghouse declared, that’d mean postponing a lot of grand new power projects, and abandoning others outright. Whereas, if George could only tell his money people that Nikola Tesla had handed over to Westinghouse all the royalty rights to AC horsepower produced in the USA…

‘Twas done. ‘Twas nothing. Ha! What were royalties, mere static pelf, to Nikola Tesla? If it meant forging ahead more quickly on the historic Niagara Falls hydroelectric project, why this crazy Serb would gladly pay hard cash out of his own pocket! So with a scratch of a pen on a piece of paper in George Westinghouse’s offices, with plenty of witnesses conveniently present, Nikola Tesla impatiently signed away a few-score million dollars in potential AC mazuma.

The Niagara project was a virtual mystical experience for Nikola. By 1895 he had, with his own hands, harnessed the most colossal natural source of concentrated hydraulic power in the United States and hitched it up to his own alternating-current electrodynamic grid. He even showed the foremen at Alcoa how most efficiently to use it to extract aluminum out of bauxite ore. When all the lights in Buffalo went on, in the homes of rich and poor alike, each glowing with equal brilliance thanks to Niagara Falls AC, it positively made Tesla feel like Prometheus Fire-Giver himself.

Hubris, it’s called. When humans take on the airs of the gods—even sweet, balmy young geniuses like Nikola Tesla—the gods get back to them presently and none too gently.

Even though, after that royalty giveaway to Westinghouse, Tesla’s income was now pretty much circumscribed by his personal bank account, he’d never accept a steady job from Westinghouse. He tried running the Pittsburgh operation for a while, but it was a ballocks. He found it impossible to teach, utterly impossible, but even the brightest engineers at Westinghouse were whole technological epochs behind him. “To do creative work” he kept protesting, “I must be completely free.”

So he cut loose, went back to his New York electric company and went broke in stupendous fashion. He was getting a little weird now; even weirder than before. “I look forward with absolute confidence to sending messages through the earth without wires. I also have great hopes of transmitting electrical force in the same way without waste.” He would free humanity of those stupid copper wires, if it was the last thing he did. “I must first ascertain exactly how many vibrations to the second are caused by disturbing the mass of electricity which the earth contains…”

He was talking wireless radio communications, of course, which we ordinarily associate with the name Marconi. For Tesla, though, this petty business of bouncing signal impulses up through the magnetosphere, from a land-based transmitter to a land-based receiver, was only prelude to some immensely grander notion about driving signals down into the earth itself and having them burst out elsewhere, immeasurably amplified.

But he was content to start from comparative scratch, with an upward-shooting transmitter on the roof of his electric company. The receiver he put on a boat, which he sent 25 miles up the Hudson to wait for the frequency beep. It never arrived. Typical of Tesla’s life, the lab somehow caught fire just then: all his equipment, models, notes, and a big bundle of hard cash up in smoke, with no insurance. Insurance?! Nikola Tesla had more important things to do with his money than haggle with insurance agents, those troglodytic slaves to Mammon.

An investor promptly came through with $40,000, quite properly. Wouldn’t you have put 40K on the man who’d wired Niagara Falls, Alcoa, and the whole city of Buffalo, and never asked for a farthing in royalties? After Nikola got through with that 40K, though, investors were very tough for him to come by, very tough indeed.

First of all, there was the embarrassing incident of this earthquake. Now, you can’t say this project didn’t work; in fact, it worked superbly beyond all reasonable expectations. It was the work of a madman, that’s all.

Nikola had built this grand new lab on West Houston Street, over by the Brooklyn Bridge, which was barely ten years old. Now, the ground in that part of town was sandy loam, so sandy that the bridge’s builders had had to lay in a Great Pyramid’s worth of solid limestone for foundation. The rest of lower Manhattan was largely sandy. Good, fine-grained, tightly packed sand. Very firm, but very friable. Resonant stuff, if you were to hit it just right.

Tesla set up a compressed-steel hammer, see, and set it to steadily tapping a metal template that went deep, deep into the Manhattan loam. He knew that soldiers on the march in long columns have to purposely break step any time they cross a bridge, lest the regular tramp-tramp-tramp of hobnails gradually disintegrate the bridge. Nikola had an intuition into the physics involved in this, and he used lower Manhattan to prove it.

Sure enough, the regular bash-bash-bash of Tesla’s hammer began generating shock waves among the subterranean sand particles. Through a receiving gimmick at the hammer site, Tesla’s engineers began recording a really phenomenal and steadily mounting input of rebound energy while the steel hammer just bashed away steadily, monotonously. By and by they were getting 5, 10, 15 times more energy back out of the ground than it took to run the hammer’s air compressor. Eureka! This was something better than perpetual motion! Just hook the hammer’s compressor up to a generator powered by this feedback gimmick and you’d have not just enough to run the hammer, but more left over to…

At about that point, the noise of sirens and shrieks began to become audible over the clamor of the compressor and the bash-bash-bash of the hammer. Nothing at all untoward was happening at Tesla’s lab, which was sort of ground zero for this phenomenon. However, every kilowatt of rebound energy he was picking up there represented just the detritus of the phenomenal energy exchange that was going on amongst the resonant sandy-loam particles of all lower Manhattan. In ever-expanding concentric circles around Tesla’s lab, the earth was reacting violently, rippling and hopping and bellowing like all the fiends in hell. Shingles were raining off the roofs, lamps were falling from the ceilings, and panicked horses were careening their carriages over the quaking cobblestones, casting passengers in every direction.

The police finally located the source of the calamity and burst into the Tesla Electric Company on West Houston. They got there just in time to see the inventor himself, like the very Sorcerer’s Apprentice, whaling frantically away at his air-compressor with a sledgehammer. Prometheus Fire-Giver was all well and good, but Nikola Tesla had no wish at all to be Poseidon Earth-Shaker.

He prudently left town to spend the rest of the 40K. This time he set up shop in Colorado, where a local power company guaranteed him all the wattage and wide-open space he could use. Since Tesla was never a teacher; a lot of the stuff he did there has never been suitably explained to this day. It still drives certain people crazy to think about it. Abandon hope, all ye techies who read further in this piece, for here there be Dragons.

It had to do with a 200-foot metal mast surmounted by a four-foot copper ball, dominating the lonesome Colorado prairie under Pike’s Peak. Below this pylon, in a shed, sat Tesla’s “magnifying transformer,” extruding a primary coil that wound about a 75-foot-diameter fence and stretched up aloft to make contact with the giant copper ball, or “electrode.”

No comic-book writer could ever do justice to the sound effects broadcast by that Godawful machine; the visual display would be a challenge to George Lucas. Tesla was casting lightning bolts as high as the Empire State Building, and that was just the stray skim-off from the 12 million volts he was able to pump through this baby continuously. When visitors wanted impressing, Nikola would put up in the night sky whole extended ballets of many-colored “globe lightning” He did this for kicks, and never bothered telling anybody how, which is a sorrowful thing, because physicists still don’t know what globe lightning is, or where it comes from.

He dispensed with wires at last. With his Pike’s Peak gimmick—which was only the demonstrator model—Tesla was presently lighting electric bulbs 25 miles away, no hands, no wires, nothing up the sleeves. And he was too busy to explain that one either, so it’s never been done since.

What he was so almighty busy with was geomagnetic phenomena. With his 200-foot, multimillion-volt transformer, Nikola was jamming megafixes of pure juice into Mother Earth, to see how much lightning he could call down out of God’s sky to restabilize the local electromagnetic setup. At least this was one part of what he was doing, as frantically as possible, while the money held out. His broader project had something to do with precisely measuring the exact wattage of potential resonance between the electricity within the earth and the electricity in the sky above it. He swore he did it, too, and knew exactly how to provide limitless free energy through manipulating it all.

Free, fools, free! Every home running its own electric lights. Every factory running its own machines. Things unheard of, undreamt of, things to make the heart soar, things to chill the guts with horror. And every megawatt of it free! Free forever!

In the meantime, there was the little matter of at least one meal every few days for Nikola Tesla, a roof over his head, a bed to sleep in. After FAAZAFT-ing away that $40,000 on an earthquake and some 200-foot-tall white elephant at Pike’s Peak, Nikola was flat broke. And no sane investor would answer his calls, either.

Well, he wasn’t flat broke. It might have been better if Tesla had been flat broke at this point, scrabbling and desperate, ready to grasp at any straw, but also to think two jumps ahead for once. The fact was, though, he did still pull a dollar out of every horsepower unit generated by Westinghouse AC in Europe. Considering the U.S.-European rate of exchange back then, this wasn’t exactly handsome, but it grew as Europe steadily industrialized. And eventually the government of Hungary unspeakably proud of this son of their soil—who had wired the fabulous Niagara Falls, laid on him a $7200 annuity for life—a bourgeois income back then. So Tesla, never given to women or booze or gambling anyway always did have enough to live on, if never nearly enough to work with.

He had enough time to try to teach, just a little, once he got back to New York and moved into a respectable though non-Waldorf residential hotel. In a few magazine articles around 1899, Nikola managed to get across the elements of his scheme for wireless sound-signal transmission. These articles came to the attention of J.P Morgan, were translated into layspeak for the great man, and he pounced.

Morgan had loads of money invested in electronic communications gimmicks: telephone, telegraph, Edison’s developing phonograph and cinematography projects and so on. Whatever was going to develop in this area, J.P. Morgan was going to have his thumb on it and get his piece of it. More than that, if developments proceeded to pick up apace in this area, then by God it would be J.P. Morgan who set that pace, sir. Unstructured development is chancy business, damned chancy, especially for your philanthropic investor. Terrible thing. A man buys up a new mousetrap design, builds a plant and a line for it, tools up the tools to make it, takes on a whole assembly staff—at modern wages—and right then, bank on it, some beady eyed loon with ink on his fingers comes up with a better mousetrap. Keep an eye on them damn beady-eyed, ink-finger types, sir. Pin ’em down. Buy ’em up. Drive ’em crazy if you have to, they’re all half-crazy to start with, anyway.

So Nikola Tesla was duly visited in his hotel by emissaries of the omnipotent Morgan, who offered him $150,000 down for a 51 percent interest in any future patents Tesla might be awarded. Since Morgan in the same year gave a cool million to the Harvard Medical School and bought Andrew Carnegie out of US Steel, this 150K was manifestly chicken feed, a mere flea-flick. But Tesla signed over the controlling interest in his brain, for the rest of his life, to J.P. Morgan. If Tesla had been physically hungry or shelterless, now he might at least have insisted on a clean 50-50 split. But he was just comfortable enough to have a proper genius’s contempt for all things material, so he tossed it all away with another scratch of the pen. Because, y’see, Morgan’s flunkies told him Morgan himself would underwrite all Tesla’s future development projects as well.

That’s what they told him. all right. They even gave him carte blanche to put up one of his mystery monster-transmitters at Shoreham, Long Island: a huge plant surmounted by a 187-foot tower from which Tesla would shoot all the electric power for the grand Paris Exposition of 1903—all the way across the almighty Atlantic, no hands, no wires, nothing up his sleeve.

Then, just months before the exposition was to open, while Nikola was still copper-plating his 150-foot-diameter “electrode,” J.P Morgan cut him off without another penny. The great man gave no reason for it, just a perfect stonewall; he wouldn’t speak to Tesla himself, or authorize any of his flunkies to talk to him. Of course, they’d promised to underwrite Tesla’s projects, sworn it with a hearty handshake that turned him green around the gills. But they hadn’t promised it on paper, y’see. You just don’t understand our American sense of humor, Tesla.

It was undoubtedly just as well, for everyone in the world but Nikola Tesla. As time went on, and relatively sane people like Guglielmo Marconi got into this deep and murky business, it turned out that what this crazy Serb had been talking about, since the 1880s, had been microwave transmission.

Among the very few patents poor Nikola was not screwed out of over his life was one that described long-distance radio transmission: antenna, grounding, frequency tuning, the works. Morgan sat on it firmly of course, and some 15 years later Marconi finally developed the gimmick himself, absolutely independently. Still, the competing patents hung in limbo until 1940, when Tesla was officially awarded the priority title in preference to the man already and forever remembered as the “father of radio.” The development of television was similarly complicated by preexisting Tesla patents, and still today geniuses of space-age gimmickry keep running up against century-old patented precognitions by this crazy Serb.

The contemporary idea of furnishing the earth with unlimited microwave energy generated by sunlight in gigantic orbiting transformers, and beamed down to the planet, is a minor modification of a Tesla patent. Scientists in the United States, the Soviet Union, Canada, China, Western Europe, Brazil and God only knows where else, are competing pell-mell to physically implement this turn-of-the-century Tesla epiphany. Microwaves from outer space: free, infinitely self-replenishing, radioactive electrical energy.

Of course, ecologists guarantee that the microwave energy would permanently disorder the entire geomagnetosphere, altering climate unpredictably and the earth-sited receiver-transformers would be hideously poisonous to life for miles in all directions. If the slightest thing were to go wrong with one of the orbital transformer-broadcasters (remember Skylab?), it conceivably could char zebra streaks of slow death and destruction ’round and ’round the turning globe before engineers could locate it and shut it down.

But it’d be everlasting, and best of all, not free in the least. Orbital microwave systems would take billions on billions to develop, and forever after, someone as evil as Edison, Westinghouse and J.P. Morgan put together would always have a finger on the on-off button, charging us all money for every minute he refrained from turning it off.

Nikola Tesla, early on, guaranteed that he had something much nobler and more humanitarian than this in his head, fully formed, a physical presence there, needing only the opportunity to be physically developed. It might be very illuminating to know what it was, or very scary, or merely funny.

Probably it would be merely funny. When Tesla died in 1943, the FBI went through his place and carried off all his papers while the body was still warm. There was one hell of a war on just then, and if Nikola ever had come up with an infinite-energy source—or a way of devastating half the planet, either—it would certainly have been physically demonstrated by the U.S. armed forces well before August 8, 1945. But that was some other genius’s brainstorm, not Tesla’s.

As for poor Nikola, it would be entertaining but depressing to cover the last 40 years of his life in detail. After Morgan screwed him in 1903, Tesla very slowly but steadily drifted off the deep end, and he had a long, long time to drift, too. He started making friends at last, around that time—with pigeons. Big, fat, filthy lice-ridden Manhattan gutter turkeys: Tesla, who could not have kissed Sarah Bernhardt on the lips in her ravishing prime, for fear of “germs,” coaxed New York City park pigeons to his hotel rooms, by the dozens, and let them nest and shit all over the place, while he taught them everything about physics which mere humans could never learn. Needless to say he was continually getting evicted.

He turned into an entertaining old crank, after he got 60-ish. Sunday-supplement writers found him a dependable source of diverting comment, prattling on about gem-focused “death rays,” faster-than-light interplanetary communications systems, climate-modifications through magnetic manipulation of the ionosphere, and other impossible science-fiction goosebumpers. Someday, he swore, mankind would inevitably evolve out of all this untidiness around us and graduate into “the perfect society of the bee.” Yes, yes, he’d drone on, avoiding eye contact with the reporter while stroking the pigeon in his lap, “the perfect society of the bee.”

The night he died […] was marked by a late-summer Manhattan thunderstorm, one of those magnificent electromagnetic displays that dependably impress even visitors from Brazzaville and Rio de Janeiro. Old Tesla, the 86-year-old virgin, was feeling his oats in proper fashion that night. The radio patent had set him up in a swell supermodern skyscraper, with a spacious balcony looking out over the wonderfully resonant canyons of midtown. Nikola, ’tis said, stood out there on the balcony all the way through the thunderstorm, sort of choreographing the flash and forksplit with vigorous élan. But when he came back in, he looked rather wistful, maybe even a little disappointed. “I have made much better lightning in my life,” Nikola Tesla apologized.

A few hours later, he died in his sleep. The doctor said it was natural causes, but more likely it was terminal hubris.

The post High Times Greats: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Nikola Tesla appeared first on High Times.

High Times Greats: The Hidden Truth Behind Joan of Arc

In the July, 2003 issue of High Times, B.L. Setab took a look at how a young, illiterate peasant woman like Joan of Arc could lead an army. Why would seasoned soldiers follow her? How was it that she appeared impervious to harm and quickly healed from wounds in battle? Where did her voices and visions come from? A counselor and hypnotherapist, B.L. Setab, M.A., studied the use of the quantum mind and how it may be accessed through marijuana and other natural psychoactive substances. Her keen interest in historical research from a psychosocial perspective led her to conclude that consciousness and the brain evolved hand in hand with psychoactives. Her research into Joan of Arc and other historical figures and eras is consistent with this perspective. To celebrate Joan of Arc’s birthday, which is widely believed to be January 6, 1412, we’re republishing the following article.


It is difficult to understand a 15th-century person through the lens of another time, but Joan of Arc was a real person filled with the same fears, likes, dislikes, and traditions as the people of her period. She was born to a peasant family in 1412 A.D. in a small village called Domremy in the French-speaking duchy of Lorraine. The village still stands, and the flow of tourists, fans, and scholars who visit to pay homage to the “Maid of Orleans” has never abated.

Like most children of Domremy, Joan did not attend school and grew up illiterate. Her father, Jacques d’Arc, was in charge of official duties in local affairs, and the d’Arc family was elevated in the hierarchy of this poor village. However, despite their rank, they lived humbly in a small cottage. Joan spent many of her days in the fields and woods tending cattle. Life in 15th-century France was rugged, but Joan was a hardy girl who was used to taking initiative. She undoubtedly learned the ways of logic from her father, who regularly made political decisions on the local level. Her mother, Isabelle, was a proud, rational, and hardworking woman who did her best to educate Joan at home.

What distinguished Joan from the other young girls in her village was her power to hear mysterious voices and experience visions. From the age of 13, she received messages from her “angels” a few times a week. As she grew older, the messages were more frequent and insistent. At last, the voice of God spoke to her, telling her to go help the dauphin (son of a French king), who had been denied the throne by the English but would become Charles VII, King of France. Joan succeeded in convincing him that she had a divine mission to save France.

To understand this peasant girl who would grow up to be a savior of France, Joan’s environment must be examined. She lived during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453). English troops had taken northern France and had been raiding nearby villages, including Domremy. The French wanted the Dauphin Charles to rule, and the English sought reign over France. Joan of Arc would come to lead the French army against the English and see to it that Charles was, indeed, crowned King of France. But her heroism and the adoration of her country did not prevent the Catholic church and the holy Inquisition from putting her on trial twice and burning her at the stake as a heretic/witch.

She was by no means the only woman to have fought in battle. Sweden’s Queen Christina and Spain’s Catalina de Erauso were among other women soldiers and sailors who dressed as men in order to participate in warfare. Mythology from other cultures also speaks a litany of female warriors, including the goddess Diana/Artemis and Daphne, who lived in the woods as a huntress. The image of Winged Victory is depicted as female. Perhaps the most widely known of legendary women warriors are the Amazons of Greek mythology and the Nordic Valkyries.

Interestingly, most female warriors who enter the golden halls of myth are artistically represented as carrying bows and arrows. In A Dictionary of Symbols, Juan Eduardo Cirlot writes: “[The bow] is… the emblem of the god’s power… the bow and arrow, as attributes of Apollo [and Diana] stand for the sun’s energy, its rays and its fertilizing and purifying powers.” Even though Joan carried her infamous sword, which purportedly was given to her by her voices/visions, during her career and shortly thereafter, she was artistically rendered with a bow and arrow. Since symbolism is deeply rooted in the collective unconscious, these works of art reflect the archetypal status with which Joan has been crowned in the ancient gallery of legend. While she is certainly a heroine in history, she remains an enigma in the collective unconscious and dimension of myth. Understandably, scholars have struggled to detail Joan’s life, as most accounts are superficial and saturated with Christian lore.

The Pagan Joan

Though Joan was only 19 at the time of her death, it must be understood that in her century, there was no concept of “adolescence” as a stage of development as we understand it. Social influences and psychological development were understood differently. Her youth was probably a less important factor in her behavior than some scholars have suggested.

While Joan lived (1412-1431), the people of France considered her to be a prophetess and a savior. The Catholic church and its right arm, the holy Inquisition, would come to believe her to be a witch—according to clerical definitions of the time, in league with the devil. These two polar extremes of thought regarding Joan continue to this day, but with a few changes that reflect our times. One end of the intellectual continuum asserts that Joan was a crazy zealot, that she suffered from a psychological disorder, as evidenced by her visions and voices. The other extreme of current thought suggests that she was sane but, as George Bernard Shaw wrote in the introduction to his play Saint Joan: “There are people in the world whose imagination is so vivid that when they have an idea it comes to them as an audible voice, sometimes uttered by a visible figure.”

But Shaw’s explanation of Joan tells us more about him than it does of her. Clearly, Shaw was touched by Joan. But something in his own psychology pushed him to demystify her so that he could accept her archetypal status. Therefore, he took refuge in an unsupported evaluation of her. I must say that in all my years in the mental-health field, I have never heard about, read of, nor met an individual who hallucinates while at the same time exhibiting sane, organized behaviors.

While Shaw’s description of Joan is quite interesting and valid in many ways, it unfortunately almost entirely dismisses the fact that paganism, a part of her society, must have influenced her deeply. It is very likely that pagan practices, which included the use of psychoactive plants, played a central role in Joan’s visions, voices, and subsequent behavior.

Take the other polarity about Joan, that she was a zealot. Psychological applications would diagnose her as psychotic. But her sterling battlefield successes indicate that she could have been a “hallucinating sane person.” At best, this theory is nonsensical and counterintuitive. Therefore, the two polarities about Joan are both contradictions, a tendency often found when scientific-like paradigms attempt to toy with that which they have no tools to measure. Moreover, these evaluations are a sad reflection of just how strong of a hold “consensus reality” has on our thought. We have been brainwashed to dismiss anything other than Judaic/Christian values.

Fortunately, between these two opposing ideas, one central figure stands out. Margaret Alice Murray, an Egyptologist and anthropologist, shed some bright light on the myth that is Joan of Arc. In The Witch Cult in Western Europe, she writes: “The actual feelings of the witches towards their religion have been recorded in very few cases, but they can be inferred from the few records that remain.” (Murray uses the word witches as an umbrella term, as she does paganism.) Her research indicates that the practices of witches were widespread in the northern region of France and throughout Western Europe and that some of the earliest documents originate from Lorraine in 1408.

Murray delves into records about witchcraft and paganism. She discovers that many pagans used psychoactive plants and that, in certain rites, a “witches ointment” was used. She claims that the ointment was well known by villagers and that Joan had to be familiar with it. To think otherwise is akin to assuming that Joan was raised by wolves deep inside a remote cave, devoid of human contact.

Murray also cites church records that describe the behavior of one Brother Richard toward Joan while she was in prison. (Remember, the Church believed witches could literally fly.) When he first encountered her presence, he made the sign of the cross and sprinkled holy water. Then Joan said, perhaps jokingly, “Approach boldly, I shall not fly away.”

Most likely, the effects of this psychoactive mixture were what gave rise to the church’s belief that witches could fly. The ointment was a brew of some highly toxic and potentially deadly plants, including belladonna and datura, and other ingredients. Ergot, a naturally occurring fungus on grain and one of the precursors of LSD, was also commonly used. Ergot grows in such a way so as to resemble horns (the church would later demonize this and put horns on their devil). Many old European fairy tales speak of ergot as the “horned goddess of the corn.”

Most reports suggest that the belladonna and datura nature-spirits favor women. Men often have bad experiences with these inebriants and can even die. In Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation and Shamanic Use of Psychotropic Plants, Jim DeKorne writes: “Belladonna alkaloids are primordial earth-forces (always symbolically female) which have been brutally and systematically repressed in human consciousness for literally thousands of years… her archetype appears in the collective psyche as dangerous… out to revenge herself on the patriarchy that usurped her power… the belladonna alkaloids are specific catalysts for evoking feminine energy… the wild and untamed female before she became a male chattel, domesticated… consider that Western male descriptions of [these] trips are almost universally negative… yet… female witches and New World [male] shamans maintain a respectful affinity for the plant.”

Translated, belladonna means “beautiful lady.” However, women can also die from improper use of belladonna and other psychoactive plants. Fortunately, our ancestors were superb herbal pharmacologists. (Interestingly, small amounts of belladonna are used in some pharmaceuticals today. Some of these drugs are specifically for women. One, called Bellergal, is prescribed for post-menopausal women to control “hot flashes.”)

There is no doubt about the efficacy of these prescriptions and their ability to produce physiological effects. Belladonna could produce excitement, which might pass into delirium. Combined with a drug that produces irregular action of the heart, it might produce the sensation of flying. Typically, pagans mixed these ingredients into an ointment that was rubbed on the skin. This ointment must have been prepared in some sort of pot or bowl. This is probably where the church got the idea of the “witch cauldron,” which they claimed contained dead babies and other ridiculous, hellish, and unsupported imaginings of the collective church mind.

The witch cults claimed that these inebriant plant and fungi properties put one in touch with a daimon or nature-spirit. A daimon could be used as one’s personal familiar or spirit guide. (The meaning of the Greek word daimon is akin to a “guardian angel.”) Pagans believed that daimons were spirits who inhabited nature. They believed that through the use of psychoactives, they could directly commune with these spirits.

This, of course, was heretical to the church, which was relentless in its campaign to stamp out pagan practices. To further this dominance, the church changed the word daimon to demon, which obviously gave it an entirely different connotation. The church believed that demons were toys or helpers of Lucifer. Before the church established itself as a ruling entity, pagans certainly had no concept of Lucifer, an entity who lived in a bizarre and perverted abode called hell.

The Mushroom Cloud

Most books dealing with Joan’s life gloss over evidence that connect her with paganism, and rely on a Christianized biography. However, Murray concludes that Joan was most likely involved in a Dianic religious cult, widespread in her day. Dianic cults practiced an ancient, benevolent, fertility-based religion. Unlike other scholars, Murray has the good sense not to dismiss this fact as unworthy of exploration. She was the first modern scholar to validate paganism as likely having had an impact on Joan’s personality. Unfortunately, due to the skepticism of our scientific age and the near-total domination of Judaic/Christian values, Murray’s profound work has been dismissed by many other professionals, who fail to attribute any credibility to reports of Joan of Arc’s paganism.

So what were the most probable causes for the personality and behavior of Joan of Arc? My interpretation begins with Murray’s assertion that pagan rites were practiced and that Joan was an initiate. But it is my contention that these rites, and the plant inebriants used therein, could, indeed, produce visions and voices, resulting in prophecies realized and the wondrous mystical occurrences experienced by Joan and witnessed by others.

However, my belief is that, while Joan was a pagan, her religion was not Dianic, as Murray suggests. Rather, it was a Druidic religion, possibly mixed with a few Dianic traditions and perhaps even a smattering of Catholicism. (In Joan’s day, it was dangerous not to at least pretend to be a Catholic, and it was not unusual for the Catholic liturgy to be incorporated into pagan rites, just to be safe.) Those Druidic rites—which included use of psychoactive mixtures—may have been responsible for inducing Joan’s voices/visions, behaviors, and prophecies, and possibly enhanced her capacity to heal quickly from the serious wounds she incurred in battle.

The Druids were a “sacred-oak” cult, widespread in Europe during Joan’s life, and inebriants were central to their rites. The Druids believed that nature-spirits or daimons, which included fairies, resided in the oak tree. Often, the oak was referred to as the Fairy Tree because fairies, or elementals/daimons, were said to be seen there.

The fact that Joan lived in a social environment of paganism is paramount to understanding her personality. The church knew very well of the pagan rites that were taking place in her society. At her trial for practicing witchcraft, she was questioned about the oak tree near her home in Domremy. At this oak, villagers would gather and hang mistletoe, a Druid custom and an indication of Joan’s strong Druid association. Though Joan made it quite clear that she would not necessarily tell the truth to church officials, she did say that she sometimes hung mistletoe on the oak branches with the other villagers. The belief in fairies and dancing around the tree were both aspects of Druid ceremonies and beliefs.

Moreover, an oak tree stood on her father’s property, where she lived. She was interrogated about it during her trial. In Joan of Arc: Fact, Legend and Literature, Jerome R. Landfield and Wilfred T. Jewkes retell how Joan was asked “if there were not in her part of the country a wood called the oak-wood; for there was a prophecy which said that out of this wood would come a maid who should work miracles.” She was also questioned as to whether she saw her visions at the Fairy Tree.

There are numerous Druid connotations linked to Joan. During her trial, Joan did eventually admit to attending the Fairy Tree ceremonies with other villagers. On one occasion, Joan reported to the church officials that she could not remember if she danced at the tree with the others. At another point in her trial, Joan remarked that she did hear voices near the fairies’ fountain, which was near the tree, but that she forgot what they said to her there. She was finally forced to admit that she had first met the voices near that spot.

Joan changed her story many times as the trial continued. Psychologically, this is to be expected for several reasons. Druid initiates often took an oath never to speak a word to any Christian about their practices.

The Amanita muscaria mushroom is widely found under oak, birch, beech, and pine trees. According to Carl A.P. Ruck, Clark Heinrich, and Blaise Daniel Staples, such trees are venerated. In The Apples of Apollo: Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist, they write: “The Amanitae, moreover, grow only in mycorrhizal symbiosis with the rootlets of certain trees—the pine, birch, and oak chief among them—making these the shaman’s Tree or Cosmic Axis, the Tree of the entheogenic fruit.”

It would be fair to say that fairies and nature spirits were more likely to be visible to someone under the influence of strong psychoactives. The Druids held sacred anything to do with this mighty tree. This certainly included the ingestion of the psychoactive mushrooms that grew there.

It is also probable that Joan preferred the A. muscaria and psilocybin mushrooms. For ancient cultures, psychoactive plants were an important part of religious practices. Accounts of effects of psilocybin mushroom use include a quickening of the consciousness, mental and spiritual revelations, and, sometimes, profound self-discovery. The visions, voices, bright lights, and cosmic revelations that Joan reported are strikingly similar to the grand visions, voices, bright lights, and cosmic revelations of other prophets throughout time. The Toltec, Aztec, and Maya called psilocybin mushrooms Flesh of the Gods. Both R. Gordon Wasson and John Allegro have made the case that the origin of the eucharist lies in mysterious rites involving the ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms. It has also been suggested that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis is a mistranslation for hallucinogenic fungus.

The late Dr. Timothy Leary, a Harvard University psychologist who championed LSD, asserts in The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead that “the drug 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.” After much research, Leary and his colleagues theorized that plant inebriants allow one to explore the DNA structures and the nervous system in the body, which contain ancestral memories, knowledge of other dimensions, and potentially even the origin of the life force itself. As Leary once said: “You must be ready to accept the possibility that there is a limitless range of awareness for which we now have no words; that awareness can expand beyond the range of your ego… beyond your notions of space and time.”

Perhaps Joan experienced that profound new awareness of which Leary speaks. She foretold of being wounded during battle and that Dauphin Charles would become king. She also claimed that voices told her where to find her fabled sword. The sword was found near a church. Once it was cleaned, five crosses were discovered—just as Joan had prophesied. While the crosses may appear to be an association with Christianity, there have been hundreds of styles of crosses in history, most of which predate Christianity, and non-Christian people have utilized a cross. In fact, it may be regarded as almost universal and, in very many cases, connected with some form of nature worship.

In 1429, when English soldiers bore down on Orleans, Joan predicted the threat from 200 miles away. There is no tangible way she could have known about that. On another occasion, she prophesied that the winds would change and the river current would stop, so that she and her soldiers could continue their journey. That occurred, as well. (Interestingly, an ancient shamanic belief holds that women are “knowers of the four winds.”)

Joan’s closest soldier friend and confidante was Gilles de Retz (1404-1440). Whenever Joan was injured in battle, he tended to her. When she was pierced by an arrow that entered her neck and came out her back causing profuse bleeding, she pulled the arrow out herself and was tended to by Gilles. A practitioner of alchemy, he undoubtedly was knowledgeable in plant usage. In any case, she soon returned to battle.

The Defiant Stance

Most plant-derived psychedelics are water-soluble. They leave the system relatively quickly, thus returning the individual to normal functioning. Still, this return to normal, organized behavior can be somewhat altered by excessive use of psychedelics. These alterations may explain Joan’s obstinate behavior toward the church and the inquisitors who tried her.

Joan’s voices/visions may have been daimons or elementals—or, from a psychological point of view, expressions of archetypal images from her subconscious, produced by psychoactive substances. Manley Palmer Hall and J. Augustus Knapp maintain in The Secret Teachings of All Ages: An Encyclopedic Outline of Masonic, Hermetic, Qabbal-istic and Rosicrucian Symbolic Philosophy that Socrates had a daimon that helped his intellect. Socrates was an initiate of a secret, mystery school, as was Plato, where a powerful psychoactive mixture was ingested. Like Joan, Socrates exhibited disdain for authority, and like her, he did not seem to take his trial seriously.

Many have speculated as to what would lead Joan to take the defiant stance she took in front of church officials, when she knew very well what the Inquisition did to heretics. Psychological experts find that excessive use of psychedelics can lead to a disregard for authority.

W.V. Caldwell notes in LSD Psychotherapy: An Exploration of Psychedelic and Psycholytic Therapy that the most notable symptom is disenchantment with the values and practices of society. With excessive use, people can come to see the world and authority as a sort of grand puppet show. They tend to take their own inner revelations more seriously than outer, authoritative constructs. This would certainly explain why Joan said in her trial that she was more afraid of disobeying her voices than of disobeying the church. At her trial, she was asked whether her voices had sight and eyes. She answered: “You will not learn that yet… there [is] a saying that men are sometimes hanged for telling the truth.”

Although it is commonly believed that from the start Joan said her voices were those of Christian saints, this was not the case. Under continuous questioning, and probably torture, she announced during her trial that her voices were those of the Catholic persuasion—Saint Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine. Prior to this, Joan had made no such claim.

During her trial, Joan was also asked what she ate when she heard her visions/voices—a clear indication that the officials were looking for plant use. Early in her first trial, she was ordered to answer what exactly she had had to eat and drink when she saw her visions. This, along with the officials’ incessant questioning about the Fairy Tree, is evidence that they clearly suspected her of ingesting inebriants.

Further obstinate behavior that Joan displayed included constantly changing her answers, refusing to answer some questions, refusing to take the oath of truth, and threatening church officials to be careful in what they asked her. She also tried to escape from prison on several occasions. On Joan’s second escape attempt, she jumped off the prison tower and fell some 70 feet to the ground. Miraculously, this jump left her unharmed. She was, however, knocked unconscious. She was found by her captors and returned her to her cell.

It is not difficult to understand why Joan made these escape attempts. First, she had long demonstrated a blatant disregard for authority, which may have resulted from a long history of psychoactive-plant use. Second, she must have been terrified at the prospects of what the Inquisition could do to her.

Common tools of the trade included the rack, branding irons inserted into bodily orifices, twisters that pulled flesh off the bone, and thumb and toe screws. Placing an individual’s hands and feet into fire or boiling fat was also a common interrogation method. Sometimes, people were slowly baked to death over a low-burning fire. At times, they were half-baked, taken off the pyres, and thrown back into their cells, only to be put back on a stake in a day or two. Other times, as with Joan’s execution, people were burned alive in public. Torture had become a science for the Inquisition, and women were perennial victims. Churchmen claimed they were devoid of souls.

In spite of these realities, Joan remained steadfast in her opposition to church officials. One can only imagine her personal agony—clinging to her own inner truth, bestowed upon her through psychoactive plant use, while the specter of a torture dungeon approached.

It is a myth that Joan had only male soldier friends, that female society was not a part of her social element. Growing up, she had girlfriends just like any other child. When she became a warrior and prophetess, Joan, indeed, had female friends and followers. One woman in particular, Pierronne, was burned as a witch in Paris for taking a stand similar to Joan’s about the reality of her own visions. Pierronne was a fearless supporter of Joan even while facing church officials and the Inquisition. Some documentation exists that she, too, engaged in Druidic practices.

Betrayal and Death

Charles VII was crowned King of France in July 1429. Two months earlier, at the Battle of Orleans, Joan had cleared his way to the throne with a miraculous victory over the English. She continued fighting the enemy in other locations along the Loire river. Fear of her troops was so formidable that when she approached Lord Talbot’s army at Patay, most of the English troops fled the battlefield. At the coronation, Joan was given a place of honor next to the king. Later, she was ennobled for her services to the country.

In 1430, she was captured and sold to the English. They, in turn, handed her over to the ecclesiastical court at Rouen, France, to be tried for witchcraft, heresy, and wearing male clothing, which was considered an offense against the church. (As a soldier, she hardly would have been wearing an evening gown.) It was Charles who had given Joan an army to fight the English, and her deeds had guided France to sovereignty. Yet, at her trial, he betrayed her by offering no assistance whatsoever.

On May 24, 1431, Joan was placed in a cart and taken to a wooden platform, which was constructed to be her burning stake. A large crowd awaited her execution. Several notaries whispered to Joan to recant and save herself by signing a confession rife with promises to obey church dogma and have her sentence commuted to life in prison. Upon seeing the stake, she gave in and decided to sign the paper. Some accounts state that she even laughed a little as she placed her mark on the page.

She was then taken back to her cell, but within days, it was pronounced that she had relapsed into heresy. While in prison, she had worn men’s clothes. Joan was shackled and chained in her cell with five guards, who treated her cruelly. Her voices had directed her to take a lifelong vow of chastity, but scholars agree that she was probably raped while in confinement.

By this time, she had been a prisoner for a year, and the Inquisition was more than ready to see her burn. Joan had grown tired of the whole mess. She claimed to have heard her voices once again, telling her not to save her life by offering the church false confessions. She was now doomed.

On May 30, 1431, Joan was again taken by cart to the stake in the old marketplace in Rouen. Officials did not have her tongue cut out, as was the usual custom to ensure that the accused could not speak to the crowd. A monk stepped onto the stake with her, to try to save her life, in the belief that if he stood beside her, the executioner would not light the pyre. He was wrong. As the roaring flames reached Joan’s feet, she pleaded with him to jump off, which he did.

After Joan’s clothes were burned off, the executioner doused the flames, so the crowd could see her burned nakedness. Most accounts say she was still alive at that point. Then the executioner rekindled the fire until the flames roared again and burned Joan to death.

By all accounts, she died in utter agony. Some say that, at the moment of her death, a dove flew from her mouth. Symbolically, a dove represents the soul at the time of death. It is said that someone in the crowd cried out, “God help us, we have murdered a saint!”

In 1456, a second trial was held, and Joan was pronounced innocent of the charges against her. She was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

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High Times Greats: New Year’s Dead

In the May, 1991 issue of High Times, Steve Bloom writes about trying to get in to a Grateful Dead show on New Year’s Eve. (He failed.)


I had neglected to tell my friend Ed a little dark secret of mine. I figured it wouldn’t matter. I was absolutely convinced that, miracle of miracles, we’d find a way to get in to the New Year’s Eve Grateful Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum—despite arriving without ducats.

But we failed, and so there we were sitting in our rental car in the parking lot, listening to the show on the radio. There was only one word for our collective state: bummed. I decided to confess.

“I probably should have told you that I generally don’t have very good luck on New Year’s. In fact, I have a history of bad New Year’s Eves—ever since the parties we had. Those were the best New Year’s Eves.” (Ed and I grew up together in New York. We threw a series of deranged New Year’s parties when we were in college.)

“You’ve had bad New Year’s Eves since?” Ed asked.

“Ever since,” I said. Ed couldn’t hold back a big laugh. “Can’t remember a good one.” And he laughed again.

“Since you were 17?”

“Right. Forgot to tell you that.”

Now you tell me.”

We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I came up with the plan to hop the airbus and join our Deadhead family in Mecca for the New Year’s shows. Ed immediately fired out a money order for tickets. I called another friend who lives in the Bay Area and asked him to make ticket inquiries on our behalf. Then I went to High Times editor Steve Hager and suggested the magazine send me out to California to cover the shows. “Got tickets?” Hager wondered. “Not yet,” I said. “We’re taking care of that. Don’t worry.”

Ed’s ticket request came back empty, but my friend was able to score a pair for the Friday night show. (New Year’s Eve was Monday.) We were in. We were booked.

Friday morning, December 28, Ed and I took off for Cali. It had snowed pretty heavily the night before, but the runway was clear. We landed in Oaktown three hours before showtime. It didn’t take long for us to run into the hemp folks on the vending lot—Jack Herer in one corner, Cannabis Action Network in the other, both doing their own thing.

The highlight of a rather laid-back show was “China Cat Sunflower,” which opened the second set (amazingly, Maria and Rick of CAN both predicted this would happen). We hung out in the hallways with the space dancers and spinners, with children and their folks at a makeshift Rainbow-style Kid Village. The mellowness—quite a change from East Coast harshness—was contagious.

The news that Branford Marsalis—the brilliant jazz saxophonist who guested with the Dead in April ’90—would be opening the New Year’s show topped off our heady day. I’ll keep this story short. A few years back, I interviewed Branford for an article about his mo’ famous brother, Wynton. Since then we’ve become friends, chatting at Knick games, even throwing a football around one Saturday afternoon in Brooklyn. When I heard Branford was in town, I figured I was in. Miracles do happen.

The next day, I tracked Branford down at a nearby jazz club where his quartet was jamming nightly. After staring at me quizzically (like, “What the hell are you doing here?”), he asked, “What’s wrong with the Knicks, man?” In between sets, Branford explained that “Dark Star” is his favorite Dead song and the main thing he likes about the Dead is “their vibe.”

About the upcoming New Year’s gig, Branford told me, “We go on sometime around eight. Other than that, I don’t know jack. I think I’m playing with [the Dead]. It’s up to the cats.” Would Branford be my miracle passage into the Coliseum? “It’s gonna be tight,” he cautioned. “I’ll help you if I can. If I can’t….”

On New Year’s Eve day, Ed and I visited High Times’ Guru of Ganja, Ed Rosenthal, who lives in Oakland. He gave us a tour of his magical cactus garden and some words of advice about attending New Year’s shows without tickets. “I won’t do it,” he said. “It’s too depressing if you don’t get in.” What bothered me as we searched for the freeway was if the Guru of Ganja couldn’t cop a New Year’s ticket, what made us think we could?

We had two plans: The Branford plan, and another that involved hooking up with Brett, a friend’s brother who had promised me his spare ticket. Both fell through. Apparently, I didn’t make Branford’s ticket cut. Adding insult to injury, Denis McNally, the Dead’s publicist, scolded me for relying on a musician for tickets. “There isn’t a spare ticket in the house,” he said, walking away. As far as the other plan was concerned, we never did find Brett.

Depression quickly overcame us. Slowly we walked back to the lot, where thousand of ‘heads were celebrating the beginning of the show. Suddenly, it dawned on me that we weren’t exactly going to miss the concert. Every colorful car, van and bus in the lot was tuned to KPFA, the local station broadcasting live New Year’s Dead to the entire country and probably a few others. The squeak of Branford’s soprano sax tweaked my brain. We walked on.

There was only one way to salvage the situation: acid and burritos. We surveyed the lot, checking for the familiar sight of Lee’s double-decker, veggie-chow wagon. It didn’t take long to spot it. Lee, Keith and others inside were partying hard. They invited us in (we stayed for most of the night). As the seven-hour show progressed, we drew solace from the ’heads around us. They too had been shut out, but “bummed” and “depression” didn’t seem part of their vocabulary—at least, not on this special night. We banded together—as those inside undoubtedly were doing—raising our spirits to rare heights.

The music certainly helped. After a surprising electric set that featured guitarist Robin Eubanks, Branford joined Jerry, Bobby, Phil, Bruce, Vince, Mickey, Bill and guest drummer Olatunji for two spectacular sets. “Eyes of the World,” “Dark Star,” “Drums,” “Space,” “The Other One,” “Not Fade Away” (great tribal dance/chant, closed the show), “The Weight,” “Johnny B. Goode” (encores). Jerry, Phil, Branford and Bruce got lost in the stars, improvising most of the night. An unwieldy, complicated fusion of styles, New Year’s Dead reveled in the past, present and future. It left me hopeful that this sort of musical summit can happen more than once a year.

But I still wished we’d gotten in. The CAN crew didn’t even bother trying; they went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers show in San Francisco instead. Now I know that acquiring New Year’s Dead tickets takes almost fanatical advance planning. There’s something painfully democratic about having to compete for tickets like everyone else. If only I’d listened to ticket maven David, who advised me to start scouting for tix the moment we touched down in Oakland….

Well, that’s all bongwater under the wharf now. Wish me better luck next year. Even if it is New Year’s Eve.

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High Times Greats: Interview With Paul Bowles

A few months before he died, Beat patriarch Paul Bowles gave a rare interview from his home in Tangier, Morocco. To celebrate his birthday on December 30, we’re republishing Ken Krayeske’s interview with the composer and author from the September, 1999 issue of High Times.


Bookshelves line the living room walls of Paul Bowles’ tiny fourth-floor flat in Tangier, Morocco. Hardcovers and softcovers of his masterpiece The Sheltering Sky in six different languages, dozens of other editions of his novels, collections of short fiction, plays, translations of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit and Moroccan folk tales, fiction by his wife, Jane, and inscribed gifts from friends like Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Truman Capote. Bowles has lived in this home for more than half of his 60 years in Tangier. It’s a long way from Long Island, NY where he was born 88 years ago. He bolted Manhattan in the ’30s, bored with composing Broadway scores, and traveled to Mexico, Thailand and France, where Gertrude Stein advised him to rewrite his poetry and move to Morocco.

The Sahara captured his imagination, and when Jane fell ill in 1957, he stayed. After she died in 1973, he said it was too late to move. Now, he welcomes visitors and journalists alike, accommodating directors like Jennifer Baichwal, whose documentary Let It Came Dawn: The Life of Paul Bowles [Zeitgeist] was released in May. The Beat patriarch was kind enough to give us the following interview.

High Times: The last time I was here, in December ’93, you were smoking kif cigarettes [granulated cannabis mixed with black tobacco]. Do you still smoke kif?

Paul Bowles: No, I stopped two months ago.

Why is that?

No one told me to stop—no doctor or medicine man. I have emphysema. I decided it was time to stop. I smoked for years.

Did you use it for medicinal purposes, like to help with your glaucoma?

I only smoked for pleasure.

When was the first time you smoked pot?

I was in Curaçao in the West Indies. The first time I smoked, I really didn’t inhale. Then the first time I did inhale, it was extraordinary for me. It was a different world.

How old were you?

I was old enough to know better.

What year was it?

It must have been 1933.

Do you recommend smoking kif?

I can’t answer this, because I don’t know the real effect of kif on the brain and, for that reason, I can neither recommend nor advise against it.

Did kif influence your creative activities, like writing music or books?

I doubt that it had any influence on my writing. People always say it gives you ideas. I disagree with that. It gave me the possibility of concentration, that when I was writing I could go on for very long. I’m very restless. I smoked because it made me less restless and I could concentrate longer on writing. I got more done.

You wrote about smoking kif in 100 Camels in the Courtyard. Is this what moved you to write about the metaphysical?

I was smoking when I was writing that. There are four stories, “A Friend of the World,” “He of the Assembly,” “The Story of Lahcen and Idir” and “The Wind at Beni Midar.”

What about hallucinogens? Did you ever try psychedelics?

Yes. It was mescaline. The first time was in 1961. It was good.

Where did you do it?

It was in the States. Actually, I had to go out and get it for my host. He didn’t want to buy it. So he asked me to go and buy it at the drugstore. You could go out and get it at the drugstore, strangely enough. It was made by Squibb. It didn’t go on long because they had to clamp down on it. You could buy $15 worth and that would supposedly be enough for one day.

What was your impression of it?

I thought it was very strange. It wasn’t my cup of tea. I only took it twice.

What did you dislike about it?

Dislike? I didn’t really dislike it, I just couldn’t make sense with it. My host kept after me.

Who was that?

A man named John Goodwin. I’m afraid he’s dead now. He was a good host. He had bought a large estate of 700 acres in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. He had fixed it up to make it a surprise when you wandered around it. You could be in the woods and there would be a little pond and coming out of the pond would be an absurd statue, which only he could have put there.

Did you ever try anything harder, like heroin?

No. I never needed it. I’ve known people who were addicted. It is a very powerful addiction. It destroyed them.

How did it affect William Burroughs?

Bill was always trying to disintoxicate himself. I don’t think it destroyed him. He stayed here in Tangier year after year. He might as well have been in Atlantic City or Chicago. He didn’t seem to be aware that he was in Morocco.

One of the reasons Burroughs came here was because drugs were cheaper and easier to buy than in the States. Should kif and heroin remain illegal?

No. I don’t think you should stop people from doing what they please. It’s like suicide being illegal. The government should not be involved. Allen Ginsberg did a lot for that cause. It’s too bad he’s gone now.

How did you feel when he died?

I felt cheated because I wouldn’t see him anymore. He came here a few years ago for Christmas. But I couldn’t go out. I stayed in bed while he was at Christmas dinner with Virginia Spencer Carr, who is writing my biography. I couldn’t go out, it was too difficult. There would have been a lot of wheelchairs and more. So I stayed right here. I saw him in New York about two months before he died in 1995. They gave concerts of my music in New York at Lincoln Center. These were pieces I have never heard before. Some of them were 60 years old.

What did you think of the performance?

It sounded good to me. Of course, I wrote them. I wired Bill to come to lunch and come see them. He came all the way in from Lawrence, Kansas. He picked up Allen along the way.

How was lunch?

We talked about old times and the present day, what had changed and what was still continuing.

What were the old times like, with Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac visiting Tangier?

Everyone would gather in Bill Burroughs’ room. We would sit in his garden and talk. Allen used to read sections of Naked Lunch aloud. He sort of put it together, as I remember. Bill didn’t know where the beginning was, or the end. He said, ‘Begin anywhere you want.’ Well, you can’t make a book that way. There had to be a beginning. There was a definite beginning scene on the subway. But I don’t remember really how it ended. I thought Naked Lunch was very comic, very funny.

You’ve said you love the absurd. Did you write any comedies yourself?

No. The absurd is fantastic. I can appreciate when other people write absurdities, but to invent them myself—I don’t think I could do very well. I don’t think it would be very funny. Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” is an extraordinary story. It’s funny only as long as she means it to be funny, and then suddenly it becomes very serious. But when it is funny, it is funny because it is absurd.

What other absurdities amuse you?

I love Through the Looking Glass. It’s wonderful. I love the interrogation of the Red Queen and the White Queen of Alice. They begin asking what does she know. Does she know addition? What’s one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one? And Alice says, “I don’t know. I lost count.” She can’t do addition. Then the queen says, “Maybe she can do subtraction. Take nine from eight.” Alice says I can’t do that. The queen says, “Here’s another problem: Take a bone from a dog. What remains?” Alice thinks about it and says, “The bone wouldn’t remain, the dog wouldn’t remain, it would come to bite me. I’m sure I shouldn’t remain.” The queen says, “You give up?” Alice says, “Yes.” The queen says, “She can’t do subtraction either.” Well, the dog ran away because it lost its temper, so the dog’s temper remains.

Where do you think absurdity comes from?

It comes from the disregard of logic.

How important was absurdity to your writing?

I didn’t think of it.

Did any writers, absurd or not, influence you?

I don’t know what influenced me. I don’t understand the word “influence.” It’s a word like “inspiration” or “inspired.”

Then who are some of your favorite authors?

Kafka is completely original, although he is preoccupied by religious beliefs. I like Camus. He wrote two very good novels. One was The Stranger and the other was The Plague.

What about Marcel Proust?

I read his complete works in Tangiers in English. Then I decided to read him in his original tongue, French. It was difficult. I moved to the desert in Algeria so I could concentrate better. It took me a long time to read it.

Did Proust influence you to write The Sheltering Sky?

I don’t see any connection. I’m not very analytical. It would take a critic to tell me.

But isn’t it true that you started writing The Sheltering Sky right after you finished reading Proust?

Yes. Well, I hoped to write a book when I left Broadway. A novel. And I did write it—The Sheltering Sky. It’s based on a short story called “A Distant Episode.” The story is about a linguistics professor who walks around Algeria and is kidnapped. He is transported around the desert, where he is made to be their jester, improvising plays and skits. Then one day he escapes and he runs back into the town frantic. A French soldier mistakes him for a native and shoots him. Then I said, “Why don’t I write a novel about it?” I started writing it in Fez and finished it in Fez. I was in the Algerian desert in the middle. It took about nine months in 1947 and ’48.

It was published a year later, in 1949.

When I finished the book, I sent it to my agent, and she couldn’t place it. Everyone refused it. And they had actually fronted my commission on it, so I had to return the money, which is not fair. I should have kept it after I wrote it. They were unpleasant about it. They said to my agent, “We asked for a novel and he didn’t give us a novel.” What is it? I don’t know. They didn’t think it was a novel. And finally after a year of being sent around from one publisher to another, I suggested that my agent send it to James Lockland at New Directions. He had the best list anyway. He purposely didn’t publish with the idea of making any money. On the contrary, he expected to lose, because he had a lot of money from Lockland Steel in Pittsburgh. He did publish it, but he decided he would only publish 3,500 copies. That was not nearly enough. It was just before Christmas, so it lost a lot of sales. Those books were exhausted very quickly from the shelves.

Had you sketched an outline of your characters beforehand?

I never planned anything. I never planned my characters. They came out. They did what they wanted. I never planned my life. You have to accept what life brings you.

What did you think of Bernardo Bertolucci’s filmed adaptation of The Sheltering Sky in 1990?

I didn’t like it at all.

Lately there have been several documentaries made about your life, like the 1996 documentary, The Complete Outsider. Did you see the movie?

Yes. I didn’t like it very much.

What do you think they meant by the title?

I don’t know. I don’t feel like an outsider.

Are you a religious person?

No.

Were you raised Christian?

No. My parents didn’t have any religious affiliation at all. I was told as a child that although people might believe in God, that I mustn’t. I’ve never been a deist. My grandparents were not. They were all atheists. Religion was a subject which was forbidden to be discussed in the house. Religion and sex were out.

What do you think of Christianity now?

Christianity is a mix of paganism and Judaism, but the one good thing Christ did was to evoke empathy, like with the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.’’ However, I can’t understand the idea of the virgin birth and life after death. How can Christ claim he was the son of man, as if God had a son? Jesus had to be insane to say that.

What about Islam? Living in a Moorish country, did you ever consider it?

The cannibalism of Christianity repulses the Moors. Although I sympathize with them, I don’t think Islam is all that great either. I would never join an organized religion.

Sartre recanted and accepted God on his deathbed. As you grow older, do you think about God?

No, I can’t do that. You can’t suddenly decide to be a deist.

You’ve done your part to preserve Moroccan culture, such as recording Moroccan music and documenting it.

In the 1960s, I had a Rockefeller grant to do that, but I had to give everything I recorded to the Library of Congress in Washington. And after many years—13 years later—they decided they could issue two records of that music. They didn’t do it earlier because of the Vietnam War. They had no money. At least they said they had no money. That I don’t believe.

Were there political motivations?

No. I don’t know why it would be. They didn’t want to allocate the funds necessary. It would have meant giving the funds to the Library of Congress for archives and they weren’t prepared to do that. Now Rounder Records in the States are making them into CDs.

Have you heard the Police’s song, “Tea in the Sahara” on Synchronicity (named after the first section of The Sheltering Sky)?

Yes. The words are silly—“Tea in the Sahara with you.” I didn’t think it was a bit of genius, but that’s a popular song, I suppose.

You’ve said you’re a composer first and a novelist second. Why?

Writing music is more difficult than writing words. There is so much more to writing one score.

What do you think about the idea that people are moved by your work?

It’s satisfying. It doesn’t change my opinion of the work, however. I don’t think the work is better because of that.

What is your opinion of your work?

I don’t have much—I mean, not very high. You can’t admire yourself very well.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

No.

Do you have any advice for budding writers?

If you write a novel, don’t go back and reread it, because you’ll tear it apart and you’ll never, ever get anywhere. Just write straight through, get a body, get an end and then go back.

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