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Alpbach Conference Centre 1986

A Conference on hallucinogenic drugs

Albert Hofmann was one of the participants. He told about his experiments. For example, the cat that Hofmann placed in the cage with the mice after he injected the cat with LSD, got afraid of the mice, and was creeping backwards. Hofmann initially concluded that this path of experiments, intended to slow down the process of aging and senility, was a dead-end street, and decided to leave his experiments at that point. But a few years later, he resumed his research and by using it himself, discovered the exceptional power of this drug. An important conclusion was that tests of (potential) hallucinogenic drugs on animals are flawed in their result because of the absence of a self-reflective consciousness in animals. The implications of this insight are far reaching.

After days of lecturing and discussions by a select group of pharmacologists with me as outsider and listener, I got the task to summarize the results and to inform a selective audience. The aim was to ask attention, especially of the politicians among the audience, not only for the risks of these powerful drugs but also for their therapeutic qualities, and intellectual and spiritual enrichments.

During my presentation I spoke briefly about the initiation rites in ancient Greece. I wanted the audience to know that Socrates and Plato belonged to the initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries. The oath never to speak about the secret rites, makes the dialogues of Plato even more interesting because we may assume that the philosophical insights of Socrates and Plato don’t contradict the experiences and insights they acquired by participating in the rites. Probably the contrary!

As a parallel to ancient Greece and Egypt, we ought not to neglect the knowledge and wisdom in the existing shamanistic practices in today’s world, varying from the indigenous cultures in South America till Nepal and Tibet, and sub-Sahara Africa. The issue is of paramount interest because it offers a chance to the Western world to enrich itself with a knowledge and experience about the effects of medicinal plants with a history of thousands of years. It offers also the possibility for a deeper insight into human nature, its innate structures and intuitive ideas.

Fons Elders


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