Did Albert Hofmann discover LSD by accident or was it the creation of an arcane order to bring a world at war to its senses? This lecture will explore the interesting history of theories and conspiracies surrounding the origins of LSD and early stories about its ability to power to mobilize or at least inspire the masses.
In 1933, ten years before Albert Hofmann supposedly accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, a little-known book called ‘St Peter’s Snow’ by the Austrian author Leo Perutz was published as ‘St-Petri-Schnee’. In Perutz’s novel a landowning Baron has learned that ergot was the secret psychoactive sacrament of the ancient mystery cults, handed down through the ages as an esoteric secret. He employs the skills of a biochemist to extract the active principle from ergot. When he experimentally doses the local peasant population whom he has invited to a fete with his drug, he induces not a religious revival but a popular revolt!
This tale was forty-five years before ergot was proposed as the secret sacrament of the mysteries in The Journey to Eleusis, by Albert Hofmann, Carl Ruck and R. Gordon Wasson in 1978. In recent years, various theories proposing that ergot was a secret mystical sacrament handed down by illuminist secret societies have since circulated on the internet. This belief may have roots in the statements of the West Coast psychedelic elite of the fifties and sixties, that LSD was the creation of followers of the occultist Rudolf Steiner working at Sandoz in the forties to save a world plunged into a devastating world war. This lecture will untangle some of these mythic threads to look at their origins in legend and history.
Alan Piper took part in the psychedelic scene of the early nineteen seventies then like many others moved on into an exploration of religious and esoteric ideas. As an extension of his interests in cultural history, he graduated in the History of Ideas in nineteen eighties as a mature student. The growing profile of psychedelic guru Terence McKenna in the nineties renewed his interest in psychedelics, and he began to investigate the history of psychedelic culture. Since then, he has published several articles on the subject and a monograph on the interest of the radical right and conservative culture in psychedelics, as well as speaking at psychedelic conferences. His latest work, a collection of his essays on psychedelic culture, ‘Bicycle Day and Other Psychedelic Essays’, will be published in March 2023 by Psychedelic Press.
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Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website http://www.amyhale.me.
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