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  LSD — My Problem Child

    Albert Hofmann

        9. Correspondence with the Poet-Physician Walter Vogt

    My friendship with the physician, psychiatrist, and writer Walter Vogt, M.D., is also among the personal contacts that I owe to LSD. As the following extract from our correspondence shows, it was less the medicinal aspects of LSD, important to the physician, than the consciousness-altering effects on the depth of the psyche, of interest to the writer, that constituted the theme of our correspondence.
                Muri/Bern, 22 November 1970
Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    Last night I dreamed that I was invited to tea in a cafe by a friendly family in Rome. This family also knew the pope, and so the pope sat at—the same table to tea with us. He was all in white and also wore a white miter. He sat there so handsome and was silent.
    And today I suddenly had the idea of sending you my Vogel auf dem Tisch [Bird on the table—as a visiting card if you so wish—a book that remained a little apocryphal, which upon reflection I do not regret, although the Italian translator is firmly convinced that is my best. (Ah yes, the pope is also an Italian. So it goes. …)
    Possibly this little work will interest you. It was written in 1966 by an author who at that time still had not had any shred of experience with psychedelic substances and who read the reports about medicinal experiments with these drugs devoid of understanding. However, little has changed since, except that now the misgiving comes from the other side.
    I suppose that your discovery has caused a hiatus (not directly a Saul-to-Paul conversion as Roland Fischer says…) in my work (also a large word) - and indeed, that which I have written since has become rather realistic or at least less expressive. In any case I could not have brought off the cool realism of my TV piece "Spiele der Macht" [Games of power] without it. The different drafts attest it, in case they are still lying around somewhere.
    Should you have interest and time for a meeting, it would delight me very much to visit you sometime for a conversation.
    W. V.
            Burg, i.L. 28 November 1970
Dear Mr. Vogt,
    If the bird that alighted on my table was able to find its way to me, this is one more debt I owe to the magical effect of LSD. I could soon write a book about all of the results that derive from that experiment in 1943....
    A. H.
                Muri/Bern, 13 March 1971
Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    Enclosed is a critique of Jünger's Annahenngen [Approaches], from the daily paper, that will presumably interest you....
    It seems to me that to hallucinate—to dream—to write, stands at all times in contrast to everyday consciousness, and their functions are complementary. Here I can naturally speak only for myself. This could be different with others—it is also truly difficult to speak with others about such things, because people often speak altogether different languages....
    However, since you are now gathering autographs, and do me the honor of incorporating some of my letters in your collection, I enclose for you the manuscript of my "testament"—in which your discovery plays a role as "the only joyous invention of the twentieth century...."
    W. V.
dr. walter vogts most recent testament 1969
    I wish to have no special funeral
    only expensive and obscene orchids
    innumerable little birds with gay names
    no naked dancers
    psychedelic garments
    loudspeaker in every corner and
    nothing but the latest beatles record [Abbey Road]
    one hundred thousand million times
    do what you like ["Blind Faith"]
    on an endless tape
    nothing more
    than a popular Christ with a halo of genuine gold
    and a beloved mourning congregation
    that pumped themselves full with acid [acid = LSD]
    till they go to heaven [From Abbey Road, side two]
    one two three four five six seven
    possibly we will encounter one another there
                most cordially dedicated
                to Dr. Albert Hofmann
                Beginning of Spring 1971
                Burg i.L., 29 March 1971
Dear Mr. Vogt,
    You have again presented me with a lovely letter and a very valuable autograph, the testament 1969....
    Very remarkable dreams in recent times induce me to test a connection between the composition (chemical) of the evening meal and the quality of dreams. Yes, LSD is also something that one eats....
    A. H.
                Muri/Bern, 5 September 1971
Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    Over the weekend at Murtensee [On that Sunday, I (A. H.) hovered over the Murtensee in the balloon of my friend E. I., who had taken me along as passenger.] I often thought of you—a most radiant autumn day. Yesterday, Saturday, thanks to one tablet of aspirin (on account of a headache or mild flu), I experienced a very comical flashback, like with mescaline (of which I have had only a little, exactly once)....
    I have read a delightful essay by Wasson about mushrooms; he divides mankind into mycophobes and mycophiles.... Lovely fly agarics must now be growing in the forest near you. Sometime shouldn't we sample some?
    W. V.
                Muri/Bern, 7 September 1971
Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    Now I feel I must write briefly to tell you what I have done outside in the sun, on the dock under your balloon: I finally wrote some notes about our visit in Villars-sur-Ollons (with Dr. Leary), then a hippie-bark went by on the lake, self-made like from a Fellini film, which I sketched, and over and above it I drew your balloon.
    W. V.
                Burg i.L., 15 April 1972
Dear Mr. Vogt,
    Your television play "Spiele der Macht" [Games of power] has impressed me extraordinarily.
    I congratulate you on this magnificent piece, which allows mental cruelty to become conscious, and therefore also acts in its way as "consciousness- expanding", and can thereby prove itself therapeutic in a higher sense, like ancient tragedy.
    A. H.
                Burg i.L., 19 May 1973
Dear Mr. Vogt,
    Now I have already read your lay sermon three times, the description and interpretation of your Sinai Trip. [Walter Vogt: Mein Sinai Trip. Eine Laienpredigt [My Sinai trip: A lay sermon] (Verlag der Arche, Zurich, 1972). This publication contains the text of a lay sermon that Walter Vogt gave on 14 November 1971 on the invitation of Parson Christoph Mohl, in the Protestant church of Vaduz (Lichtenstein), in the course of a series of sermons by writers, and in addition contains an afterword by the author and by the inviting parson. It involves the description and interpretation of an ecstatic-religious experience evoked by LSD, that the author is able to "place in a distant, if you will superficial, analogy to the great Sinai Trip of Moses." It is not only the "patriarchal atmosphere" that is to be traced out of these descriptions, that constitutes this analogy; there are deeper references, which are more to be read between the lines of this text.] Was it really an LSD trip?… It was a courageous deed, to choose such a notorious event as a drug experience as the theme of a sermon, even a lay sermon. But the questions raised by hallucinogenic drugs do actually belong in the church—in a prominent place in the church, for they are sacred drugs (peyotl, teonanacatl, ololiuhqui, with which LSD is mostly closely related by chemical structure and activity).
    I can fully agree with what you say in your introduction about the modern ecclesiastical religiosity: the three sanctioned states of consciousness (the waking condition of uninterrupted work and performance of duty, alcoholic intoxication, and sleep), the distinction between two phases of psychedelic inebriation (the first phase, the peak of the trip, in which the cosmic relationship is experienced, or the submersion into one's own body, in which everything that is, is within; and the second phase, characterized as the phase of enhanced comprehension of symbols), and the allusion to the candor that hallucinogens bring about in consciousness states. These are all observations that are of fundamental importance in the judgment of hallucinogenic inebriation.
    The most worthwhile spiritual benefit from LSD experiments was the experience of the inextricable intertwining of the physical and spiritual. "Christ in matter" (Teilhard de Chardin). Did the insight first come to you also through your drug experiences, that we must descend "into the flesh, which we are," in order to get new prophesies?
    A criticism of your sermon: you allow the "deepest experience that there is"—"The kingdom of heaven is within you"—to be uttered by Timothy Leary. This sentence, quoted without the indication of its true source, could be interpreted as ignorance of one, or rather the principal truth of Christian belief.
    One of your statements deserves universal recognition: "There is no non-ecstatic religious experience."…
    Next Monday evening I shall be interviewed on Swiss television (about LSD and the Mexican magic drugs, on the program "At First Hand"). I am curious about the sort of questions that will be asked…
    A. H.
                Muri/Bern, 24 May 1973
Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    Of course it was LSD—only I did not want to write about it explicitly, I really do not know just why myself.... The great emphasis I placed on the good Leary, who now seems to me to be somewhat flipped out, as the prime witness, can indeed only be explained by the special context of the talk or sermon.
    I must admit that the perception that we must descend "into the flesh, which we are" actually first came to me with LSD. I still ruminate on it, possibly it even came "too late" for me in fact, although more and more I advocate your opinion that LSD should be taboo for youth (taboo, not forbidden, that is the difference…).
    The sentence that you like, "there is no nonecstatic religious experience," was apparently not liked so much by others—for example, by my (almost only) literary friend and minister-lyric poet Kurt Marti.… But in any case, we are practically never of the same opinion about anything, and notwithstanding, we constitute when we occasionally communicate by phone and arrange little activities together, the smallest minimafia of Switzerland.
    W. V.
                Burg i.L., 13 April 1974
Dear Mr. Vogt,
    Full of suspense, we watched your TV play "Pilate before the Silent Christ" yesterday evening.
    … as a representation of the fundamental man-God relationship: man, who comes to God with his most difficult questions, which finally he must answer himself, because God is silent. He does not answer them with words. The answers are contained in the book of his creation (to which the questioning man himself belongs). True natural science deciphering of this text.
    A. H.
                Muri/Bern, 11 May 1974
    Dear Mr. Hofmann,
    I have composed a "poem" in half twilight, that I dare to send to you. At first I wanted to send it to Leary, but this would make no sense.
Leary in jail
Gelpke is dead
Treatment in the asylum
is this your psychedelic
Had we taken seriously something
with which one only ought to play
    W. V.

Chapter 10

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