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Myron Stolaroff and Albert Hofmann
Perspectives on Psychedelics
Selections from the Stolaroff Collection
by Jon Hanna
Nov 2009
Citation:   Hanna J. "Myron Stolaroff and Albert Hofmann: Perspectives on Psychedelics." Erowid Extracts. Nov 2009;17:18-20.
One of the joys of working with The Stolaroff Collection has been reading letters retained in Myron's archives. Through such communications, we can gain unique insights into the opinions of psychedelic pioneers.

The following letters come from a correspondence between Myron Stolaroff and Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD. In a missive dated December 20, 1995, Myron entreats Albert to write a foreword for his book The Secret Chief. Responding on January 19, 1996, Albert cordially accepts the invitation.

Later, after reading the manuscript, Albert regretfully informs Myron that he won't be able to write the foreword, as his own philosophical approach toward psychedelics conflicts too strongly with that of "Jacob" (Leo Zeff), the book's central character. A final letter from Myron, justifying the approach that Jacob embraced, asks Albert to reconsider his decision. Although further response from Albert is missing from Myron's archives, the fact that Albert ultimately did pen a foreword for the book suggests that Myron's letter was persuasive.

I hope Erowid Extracts readers will find the eloquently expressed, contrasting opinions of these two heavyweight champions of the entheogenic experience to be as interesting as I did.

27 February, 1996

Dear Myron,

Late news, and in addition bad news. During more than a week I have tried to find a formulation of the foreword I promised you for your book The Secret Chief. But finally I had to give it up.

The difference in the concept of what psychedelics are and how they should be used in order to produce optimal effects on the human psyche and consciousness between that which is described in your book, and my belief in this regard, is too big to become united in a foreword, which should help to promote this book.

When I received your manuscript I read the introduction dealing with the personality of The Secret Chief and the general goal and subject of the book[, which] made me believe that I would be able and that it would be a pleasure for me to write a foreword for this book.

But after having read the whole book in detail, I encountered several important points on which we are not in agreement.

The general disagreement: I believe that the ingestion of sacramental drugs should be restricted to a few well-prepared sessions in critical and decisive phases of our life. This fundamental prerequisite condition cannot be fulfilled if Jacob sends his people "within a year or so" (p. 61) through a whole spectrum of substances; and what a spectrum of substances: LSD, psilocybin, peyote, MDMA, MDA, ibogaine, harmaline, 2C-B.

And I can not agree when he says: "Mostly there is much more likenesses between them all than there is differences. They all turn you on, they all bring you back to your center." (p. 61)

Jacob must have had a view fundamentally different from mine about the character and meaning of the mystical state produced by true entheogens, like LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, if he puts them in the same pot [with] ibogaine, MDMA, etc. In addition, the two groups are quite different regarding toxicity.

When in the 3 case histories [it] is told how many (up to 80) trips they have taken and with a number of different substances, a pattern of use of psychedelics is shown, which I cannot approve. Such a kind of consumption of psychedelics should not be propagated.

These essential differences in the concept of a beneficial use of psychedelics made it impossible to me, to my deepest regret, to provide the promised foreword. I am very sorry.

With warm regards,

[Signed] Albert Hofmann

March 12, 1996

Dear Dr. Hofmann,

I have just received your letter of 27 February. Needless to say, I am quite disappointed in your decision to not write a foreword for my new book. However, I am even more concerned about the difference in viewpoint that seems to exist between us. To this end, I hope to communicate in more detail to see if we can reach a better understanding.

I believe I understand your position concerning the importance of the mystical aspect of psychedelic experience, and your concerns about the frequency of use.

I agree with you that ideally, experiences should be limited, and preferably utilized at decisive phases in one's life. However, from my own experience of several decades of investigation and with perhaps over 100 different subjects, I have come to realize that we as individuals are all different, are in different stages of development, and require a wide availability of varying procedures for optimum development.

Mature, competent people, like yourself, Sasha Shulgin, Andrew Weil, Christian Rätsch, and perhaps Ram Dass, to name a few with whom I am familiar, when once exposed to the meaningful levels of existence, can immediately begin to live on a different plane. For such people, the kind of participation with entheogens that you describe is quite adequate, and in fact ideal.

Not so for countless, countless others. Many, many people are plagued with heavy loads of burdensome psychical material--deep pains, betrayals, loss of self-esteem, isolation from their True Selves. For such persons, even with outstanding revelations, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make adequate changes in their life. They need a great deal more help. It is for such as these that I hope my book Thanatos to Eros will be helpful.

Healthy-minded persons have a difficult time understanding such people, and how crippled they are. I once discovered that mental health was simply the state that when one once perceived that something needed doing, one simply goes and does it. This is the way the competent people in our world function. Not so for neurotics. They stew and mull over everything, constantly weigh the effort involved in action, and what others will think. The competent simply cannot understand the ghosts with which we neurotics deal. And how very, very difficult it is to get free of such Shadow material, and to actually change.

A psychologist friend of mine, an extremely competent therapist and the founder of an important new school, the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, once explained to Jean and me that every client [who] comes to see him knows the answer to his/her problems. They simply cannot muster the energy and determination to carry out the changes. The role of the therapist is to develop trust enough to furnish support and encouragement for the client to develop sufficient strength and resolution to make the necessary changes. If the therapist tries to go too fast, the client is threatened and the trust is broken. The therapist then has to start all over again to develop sufficient trust to be of help.

For persons like this, who are heavily burdened, Jacob and his methods were a Godsend. They needed frequent interventions and ongoing experiences to finally break through their dilemmas and become healthy, active persons. Like you, I was at first greatly dismayed by the number of experiences they had undergone. I liked to think that our model in the days of our own Foundation, where we administered a single, overwhelming dose, that could not be repeated in less than six months, was all that was necessary. But I found out myself in later years that this was not enough to make obvious changes, or to make the deeper, more profound changes required if one wished to become truly liberated as described by the Buddha.

One would think that once one had a clear vision, that hard work alone would be sufficient, and only an occasional reinforcement with a fresh sacramental experience would be necessary. In my own case, I applied the practice of Tibetan Buddhist meditation, and found it most fruitful and helpful. So much so, that on numerous occasions I felt it no longer necessary to resort to a psychedelic experience. Yet I frequently found that my progress through meditation alone seemed exasperatingly gradual, and returning to psychedelics would allow me to break through a deep, powerful barrier, resulting in a quantum jump in my ability to change and function on a much superior level.

So please understand that there are many, many persons who need a great deal of help in subduing and freeing themselves from their demons. For these persons, more frequent experiences can be most helpful. Also, a variety of substances can also be quite helpful. In my own personal research, I often found that a new substance would be particularly effective in exposing an entrenched and well-guarded area of the ego.

While I would cherish for everyone the highest kind of mystical experience, there are times when a particular substance can have the ability to free up a specific area of the unconscious that can be most helpful, leading to freedom, understanding, and improvement in communication and relationships that add much value to life. The human psyche is vast and complex, and as overwhelming as the mystical experience can be, it is often quite necessary to deal with more mundane areas of the psyche where we may be frozen.

Let us not forget that Oscar Janiger, in the early days of LSD research, administered LSD to the elite of Hollywood--producers, directors, famous actors and actresses. Many had outstanding, transpersonal experiences. A few special ones, like the famous actor Cary Grant and the great nutritioness Adelle Davis (who wrote a remarkable book on her LSD experiences under an assumed name, Exploring Inner Space), were quite outspoken about the benefits they received. But most of the others quietly forgot their experiences, and after a few months it was simply a memory like a good dream. It did nothing to change their values or their behavior, and was soon entirely forgotten. On the other hand, the members of the Native American Church use peyote to good advantage on a regular basis, with the establishment of excellent values and behavior among their people. The same can be said of the frequent use of ayahuasca by government-recognized churches in Brazil.

While I agree that our central commitment must be to spiritual development, let us not overlook other possibilities of these remarkable materials to help people in many other ways, in various stages of development and in encountering a variety of problems.

In our nation, founded upon the principle of personal freedom, it is now illegal to possess substances [that] can be powerful learning devices and lead to spiritual and personal growth. What conscientious therapist dedicated to helping his clients can abide by such laws? I assure you that there are hundreds of therapists in this country who are quietly using psychedelic substances in their practice, with very positive results--certainly a great deal better than simple therapy alone. But where can they get information outside of their own experience? One doesn't dare publish their results; there can be no public exchange of information. Therefore I feel it very important that Jacob's valuable experience be made available.

I hope you will reconsider your decision regarding the foreword to The Secret Chief. If you are still uncomfortable about associating your name with this endeavor, I hope that at least you can understand the need and rationale for having such approaches and such information available.

My most sincere and respectful regards,

[Signed] Myron Stolaroff

Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Nov 2009 - Jon Hanna - Published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.1 - Sep 2010 - Published on