Albert Hofmann, who first synthesized LSD, has died. He was 102 years old. His “problem child,” as he once called the psychedelic substance, turns 70 this year. Which means he was 32 when he first created acid — kind of ironic when you think about that famous slogan of the 60s, “Never trust anyone over 30.”
I tried LSD once, when I was in High School. It was 1979. It was a very nice, sunny spring day; I went with a friend to Newport News Park near my hometown of Hampton, Virginia; we spent the day watching the trees breathe and marvelling at all the pretty colors. Under the rubric of “now I know what that’s like,” I’m glad enough that I did it. But I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, nor have I ever wanted to take acid a second time. And that’s because two years earlier I had a more thoroughly “mind-expanding” experience of the presence of God, which I recount here. Having experienced that unitive, eucharistic presence, and then trying LSD, I can safely say that an organic mystical experience trumps Hofmann’s drug in pretty much every way that I can think of. Sure, I didn’t encounter any respiring plants when I was incandescent with the consciousness of divine presence, but what’s a hallucination or two when compared to seeing the face of God? As I said in The Aspiring Mystic, “when I experimented with LSD or cocaine or magic mushrooms, those substances always seemed pale and physically jarring in comparison to the loveliness I had known that night” in which I encountered the felt presence of God.
Forgive me for being so blunt and indulging in an erotic metaphor, but frankly it’s the best analogy I can think of: comparing LSD to a unitive Christian mystical experience is like comparing masturbation to the mystery that transpires between spouses who truly love one another.
Don’t get me wrong: I suppose LSD may have its uses, and I wish there were opportunities for legitimate scientific research in ethical and safe settings. For example, it might be a wonderful tool to assist in the healing of psychoses or for creating spiritual awareness during a terminal illness. Even so, I don’t lament its criminalization for the simple reason that I believe far better means exist for inner exploration and liberation. If you want to know more, just poke around my website for a while.
“LSD can help open your eyes,” Hofmann once said. “But there are other ways — meditation, dance, music, fasting.”