LSD does not disappear but ebbs and flows in the somewhat hidden world of the elite, government intelligence, those searching for higher consciousness and hopeful (probably misguided) clinicians.

I spent several hours reading a history of hallucinogens and their use in controlling others. ‘The Sequoia Seminars — A History’ tells the whole story, which makes for astounding reading. Readers with an interest in new movements in late 19th century England, 20th century American politics and the late 1960s music scene will find this fascinating.

This is the first instalment, which continues tomorrow.

Excerpts follow, except where indicated otherwise; emphases in bold from the original, purple highlights mine.

Psychical research in England and the US — 19th century

In 1882, three dons from Trinity College, Cambridge, founded The Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which still exists today. Their objective was to bring together spiritualists, scientists and scholars to objectively investigate psychic phenomena.

Sir William F Barrett, who was doing research on the subject at the Royal College of Science in Dublin was the catalyst for the SPR. The three dons had attended one of his conferences in London and, soon afterward, with his support, created the new research society.

American psychologists and professors interested in the same field of work got to know Barrett and the Cambridge dons. Barrett toured the United States discussing his work. The American Society for Psychical Research was formed in 1885 and is still in existence.

The SPR has research archives in Cambridge and London, which it updates regularly.

Their investigations include the relationship that altered states of consciousness have on the human mind and personality:

Following the general trend discerned also in psychology, towards an experimental, more biological, approach, experimental methods kept undergoing refinements and improvements. Much important pioneering work on free-response and quantitative experiments was done in the 1920s and 1930s, by researchers such as George Tyrrell. Mathematician and physicist by education, he explored a variety of methods for inducing altered states of consciousness, techniques to differentiate between telepathy and clairvoyance, and made attempts to automate the randomisation of targets.

Some members of these psychical societies were interested in eugenics and freedom restrictions. One example was Gifford Pinchot, President Theodore Roosevelt’s chief forester and vice president of the first International Eugenics Congress in 1912. As chief forester, Pinchot overturned Abraham Lincoln’s programme of free-land-to-families for farming (by then nearly 50 years old) in favour of a ‘conservation’ scheme which gave the federal government control over land acquisition. Frederick E Weyerhauser of the Weyerhauser paper company supported this new policy, especially important as he controlled much forest land for production of paper pulp. More about Pinchot and his relatives later.

LSD’s use — Third Reich and Cold War

In 1938, Albert Hofmann first synthesised LSD — lysergic acid diethylamide — from ergotamine, a chemical derived from ergot, a fungus found on rye grain. Hofmann discovered LSD’s hallucinogenic properties in 1943. This research took place at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland.

The Third Reich was the first to use it against their opponents:

Adolf Hitler’s first targets in Nazi Germany were the Gypsies and the students. LSD was a youth oriented drug that was perfected in the laboratory. When it was combined with other chemicals, and given the wide distribution necessary all that remained were the marching orders to go to war.

Dr Hubertus Strughold directed various experiments using hallucinogens:

Dr. Strughold’s barbaric “medical experiments,” for which his subordinates were tried and convicted as war criminals at Nuremburg, were nothing more than a series of bizarre and unspeakably brutal tortures. Even so, he learned a lot about human behavior and mescaline, a natural alkaloid present in the peyote cactus. Mescaline, long central to many Native American religious rituals and first chemically isolated in 1896, is a phenethylamine whose ergoline skeleton is also contained in lysergic acid (a tryptamine).

In 1947, Sandoz made LSD available for use in a clinical setting by psychiatrists.

At that time, the CIA were looking for a truth drug with a view to altering human behaviour and suppressing enemies of America. Hundreds of Nazis, including Strughold, accepted a special invitation:

“Project Paperclip,” an arrangement made by CIA Director Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, brought one thousand Nazi specialists and their families to the United States. They were employed for military and civilian institutions.

Some Nazi doctors were brought to our hospitals and colleges to continue further experimentations on the brain.

American and German scientists, working with the CIA, then the military, started developing every possible method of controlling the mind.

It appears that the CIA-sponsored product could well have had other chemicals added to it, making it different to the original Sandoz LSD:

Government agents and the ability to cause permanent insanity, identical to schizophrenia, without physician or family knowing what happened to the victim.

“No physical examination of the subject is required prior to the administration of LSD. A physician need not be present. Physicians might be called for the hope they would make a diagnosis of mental-breakdown which would be useful in discrediting the individual who was the subject of CIA interest. Richard Helms, CIA Director, argued that administering drugs, including poisonous LSD, might be on individuals who are unwitting as this is the only realistic method of maintaining the capability considering the intended operational use to influence human behavior as the operational targets will certainly be unwitting.”

“Senate Report to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities”
Book I, page 401, April 1976.

When the first reports came out that the CIA could administer a tasteless substance into the beverage of one of their most responsible co-workers, and drive that man into a mental institution, or cause him to jump out of a window to his death, all existing CIA records were destroyed.

Hippies and musicians, previously normal and creative, with families and loved ones identical to Dr. Frank Olson, responded in the same manner as Dr. Olson after their introduction to the same drugs.

Even before Project Paperclip started, however, hallucinogens formed part of an experiment by which military intelligence could use what they termed a ‘truth drug’ and began with a marijuana extract as well as peyote, morphine and others:

In September 1942, OSS director and Army Maj. Gen. William “Wild Bill” Donovan began his search for an effective “truth serum” to be used on POWs and captured spies …

The OSS/FBN team first tested a potent marijuana extract, tetrahydrocannabinol acetate (THCA), a colorless, odorless substance, lacing cigarettes or food items with it, and administering them to volunteer US Army and OSS personnel, all who eventually acquired the nickname “Donovan’s Dreamers.” Testing was also conducted under the guise of treatment for shell shock.  [Tavistock]

Donovan’s team found that THCA, which they termed “TD,” for “truth drug,” induced “a great loquacity and hilarity,” and even, in cases where the subject didn’t feel physically threatened, some useable “reefer madness.” Peyote, morphine and scopolamine were judged too powerful to be used in effective interrogation. In light of all this, Donovan concluded, “The drug defies all but the most expert and search analysis, and for all practical purposes can be considered beyond analysis.” The OSS did not, however, end the program. By that time, faced with the terrifying ship losses the USA was suffering from German U-boats, Donovan pressed on, hoping to find some effective chemical means to help interrogate captured U-boat sailors.

Early 20th century left-wing politics

Gifford Pinchot’s brother, Amos Pinchot, was also a supporter of Teddy Roosevelt’s. However, after openly criticising the President’s Bull Moose party of being too friendly with American corporations, he ended up joining the Democratic Party and pursued a left-wing political stance.

His daughter Mary, born in 1920, attended Vassar. Amos wrote to Gifford:

Vassar seems to be very interested in communism. And a great deal of warm debating is going on among the students of Mary’s class, which I think is an excellent thing. People of that age ought to be radical anyhow.

Her education allowed her to meet more people in ever-higher social circles. She met the future President John F Kennedy when both were still at boarding school. Mary became a journalist for a variety of prestigious press agencies and publications. She joined the American Labor Party which triggered the FBI to hold a file of her activities.

In 1945, Mary married Cord Meyer, a US Marine who had been seriously injured in the Second World War. His injuries caused him to question atomic warfare and embrace pacifism. He commissioned a film, The Beginning or the End, and wrote a book about his war experiences called Waves of Darkness.

Shortly after their wedding, Mary and Cord attended the conference in San Francisco which established the United Nations. In 1947, Cord was elected president of the United World Federalists. However, by 1950, Cord’s commitment to leftism was under question. On the surface, he still seemed supportive, but it is believed he began working for the CIA around this time.

In 1950, he co-founded the Committee to Frame a World Constitution:

As a result of this work Meyer made contact with the International Cooperative Alliance, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the Indian Socialist Party and the Congress of Peoples Against Imperialism. It is almost certain that this had been done on behalf of the CIA.

In 1951, Allen W Dulles invited Cord to join the CIA. He became the principal operative in Project Mockingbird:

a CIA program to influence the mass media.

Three years later, Cord became disillusioned with his work and attempted to get a job in mainstream publishing. However, none of the publishing houses would take him on. At the same time, Jack and Jackie Kennedy moved next door to the Meyers, and Mary became friends with both. As Meyer had been transferred to head an agency in Europe — the International Organizations Division, which supervised transmissions on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty — Mary got to know the Kennedys better.

In 1956, Mary and Cord’s son Michael, aged 9, was hit by a car and died. The accident took place near their home in Virginia. Although the tragedy brought the couple closer for a while, by 1958, Mary filed for divorce, citing Cord’s mental cruelty. Mary continued to live in the house. It was during this time that she got to know Robert Kennedy. The CIA’s James Angleton was a regular visitor; he took Mary and Cord’s sons on fishing trips.

One President and LSD — 1960s

By 1961, Mary Pinchot Meyer began visiting the White House, often to see the President.

In 1962, she met Timothy Leary. A psychologist, Leary was director of research projects at Harvard at the time. He gave Mary some LSD, which she used with the President. Leary later claimed that LSD softened Kennedy’s stance on nuclear weapons and Cuba.

Kennedy ended his and Mary’s meetings early in 1963 after the editor of The Washington Post announced at a convention of American newspaper editors that the two were having an affair.

Mary became increasingly worried, particularly after Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963. Years later, it was revealed that the FBI had a file on her and that James Angleton had her phone and bedroom bugged.

On October 12, 1964, a professional hitman shot her twice: once in the back of the head and a second time into her heart. Unfortunately, a black man, Raymond Crump, was near the scene of the murder. It took some time to prove his innocence; fortunately, he was acquitted in 1965. The case remains unsolved. No one in a position of power was going to intimate that the CIA was behind Mary’s murder.

Mary’s diary of her affair with Kennedy states that they took LSD together.

Leary, incidentally, had designed an eponymous psychometrics test for the CIA which they used when recruiting agents.

How did he get involved in the CIA? He met Cord Meyer in 1948 at the yearly convention of the left-wing American Veterans’ Council in Milwaukee. Meyer was working for the CIA, infiltrating left-wing anti-American organisations; Leary was a graduate student at UC Berkeley. Cord asked Leary for his help:

Leary acknowledged Meyer’s influence, crediting him with “helping me understand my political-cultural role more clearly.”

More about Timothy Leary’s work for the CIA tomorrow.