From the Vaults: Ramparts, April 1966

Ramparts was a well produced American magazine that suited the 1960s New Left. It was designed to be a serious magazine but it did promote Che Guevara, the Black Panthers and an assortment of other less than salubrious revolutionary heroes.  But it did more than that. It was the 1960s after all. Below I copy a small extract from a very long article that the magazine published in April 1966.

LSD: The Acid Test

Donovan Bess

Ramparts, Vol. 4, No. 12, April 1966, pp. 42-48.

…. During an LSD session, you are apt to feel like an explorer who has landed on Mars with no return fuel.  One San Francisco executive said that after ingesting 350 micrograms of LSD, plus about 300 micrograms of mescalin (which has a kindly effect): “The ceiling above me became a black sky filled with universes, red, white and blue, whirling at incredible speeds and interlocking with consummate accuracy.”…. Alan Harrington, writing of his LSD session, tells of heaven and hell, and reports that the outcome “provided an atheist with what can be described as a religious or anyway metaphysical insight, and this has not been dimmed.” Medical doctors and psychologists generally describe such adventures as hallucinations. Those who have been through it say, “I don’t care what you call it – it happened.”

Some of the doubters seem to be upset by LSD’s capacity for letting people make themselves warm and loving. Take the case of the California physicist who sacrificed himself for science by taking LSD. He followed the orthodox procedure of having with him a guide – a man who had been on the psychedelic journey and therefore was not alarmed by behaviour that would seem eccentric to most people. The guide reported: “He went into LSD and was speechless for eight hours…. He ran smack into his essence and he was so overwhelmed and so amazed and disconcerted about what this brought home to him that he was simply unable to communicate.” When the physicist’s wife and daughter showed up at the end of the session, this man wept. He had never cried before, apparently, and he cried quietly for a long time.  He was taken to a motel with an LSD-sitter. After a few hours, he sent for a colleague from his office, “threw his arms around this guy and burst into tears.”….

The most radical known LSD investigations have been conducted by by Dr. Stanislav Grof of the Psychiatric Research Institute in Prague…. One of his woman patients had tried conventional psychotherapy for eight years to overcome her frigidity. After repeated LSD sessions, she relived moments at age eight when her stepfather raped her and, and in a transcendent climax, experienced an orgasm in the consulting room. (There is a clinic in Washington University in St. Louis which may want someone to look into this. The clinic handles frigid wives and impotent husbands who have remained sexually incomplete despite six months of psychotherapy…..)

And so the article goes on. To be fair, at some point in the middle of the article, the author does note that the “Food and Drug Administration has put LSD into the category of ‘a dangerous drug.’” However, it can also be noted that straight after that, the author plays this down by saying that LSD can be dangerous “in the wrong hands.” He then provides an example of a bad experience of a ten year old boy who had ingested LSD. The author then cites a psychiatrist to make his claim that “the hazards are minimal” when psychedelic drugs are taken under medical supervision. Indeed, he informs us that there were only two psychotic reactions in each 2,500 normal volunteers to take the drug.

In the two pages following this article, Ramparts provides the “LSD/Journals of an Artist’s Trip.” These pages contain seventeen drawings by Harriette Frances of outer body experiences.

The 1960s……


In the comments below, “static squid” advises me to “turn on, tune in, drop out!” This phrase, for those who are not familiar, was popularised by Timothy Leary.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is, or at least should be, a serious journal. In a May 1962 article,entitled “The Politics of the Nervous System”, Timothy Leary, then a lecturer in psychology at Harvard University, his colleague Richard Alpert and others, argued the best defence to the potential threat of a possible Russian attack on the United States by contaminating the water supply with LSD was to have the whole population of US experiment with LSD in order that they could be prepared for its effects.