Citation: Theodore. "Epic LSD Symposium: An Experience with 2006 LSD Symposium, Basel (exp49773)". Erowid.org. Jan 24, 2006. erowid.org/exp/49773
A simple acronym, three little letters, 49 atoms, one drug. Very little still exists in modern society that by its very mention is capable of producing feeling of terror, evoking strong prejudice and that is so strongly shrouded in mystery, misunderstanding and all out misrepresentation. Yet despite 40 or more years being labelled as a 'killer drug' capable of demonic power and liable to send its very user mad or suicidal in nature there are still those that believe. Those that believe this drug holds more benefits that drawbacks who were able to see through the bullshit enough to test this substance on themselves. Once the power of it had been unleashed in these few, there was no turning back the clock, and now over the globe a community exists of consciousness explorers, from all kinds of backgrounds united under one banner “the psychedelic community”.
It is so strange that in an era of increasing tolerance, political correctness and what some see as slackening of the morel code that one chemical is still capable of such strong emotion, such clear division between otherwise normally rational individuals.
When I first saw the conference I had a strong desire to attend. It was not until much later that I realised Hofmann was indeed alive and speaking at the conference. This immediately prompted me to buy tickets which amazingly 5 days before the event had not sold out. I conducted the whole affair was conducted however in a manner of secrecy. Despite being a valid scientific field of study I feel too few would understand my reasoning if I told them I was attending a conference about acid. For this reason I decided not to tell my peers at the University, but embarked alone on what was to be a momentous occasion.
I flew out from London and was sitting in the airport lounge when I happened to be asked by a neighbour what the purpose of my visit to Switzerland was. I told him I was attending a conference held in Basel, to which the obvious question was “oh what about?” I sighed and thought about how best to put this, oh to hell with it “LSD” I blurted out very matter-of-factly. 'Ah, me too.' And so it began, this was the beginning of what was to be a non-stop exchange of ideas, experiences, email addresses and information.
I was staying at a youth hostel in Basel not far from the conference centre. The mood of the place was suitable electric. Never before have I met with so many enthusiastic people, just bursting with excitement. Everyone eager to meet everyone else yet keen to get enough sleep to be alert and awake for the conference ahead. An early night for me for an early morning ahead.
The conference opens with a 'tune-in' session. An opportunity to start the day with mellow mood music, rising in character so that over 30 minutes the still-sleepy audience could become fully roused and ready for the talks ahead. There is something quite incredible about this community. Something universal about it. It transcends all barriers, all classes and all professions. There was representation from so many countries, with students of 18 mixing with the ex-professors of 80. There were hippies talking to psychologists. Psychotherapists, chemists, writers and poets, artists, physicists, psychiatrists and psychonauts, dancers, musicians, theologians and thespians. The east, the west, the north and the south, so much represented and one thing in common.
The talk opened with the discovery of LSD, many fine talks but of course all eyes were on Albert. A chemist worthy of Nobel acclaim sat at the head of the 'San-Francisco' room, incredible sitting through two hours of talks and then giving an interview. This man of 100 was not in a chair, he was not dozing off and he was not going mad. He stood up and walked to a chair at the front, unaided (albeit with crutches), where he answered questions relating to the discovery of his 'problem child'. Despite a thunderstorm of camera flashes and roars of applause finishing in a standing ovation this 'frail old man' was clearly not nearly as frail, nor seemingly as old as one might expect a man of 80 to be. He was hailed by many at the conference in reverence akin to a God, and rightly so. For whatever beliefs that might be had on the subject he has provided a tool like no other, of such extra-ordinary strength and potency, capable of unleashing a seemingly unending potential of the human mind and of course opening the gates of heave and hell.
There are simply too many talks to discuss, and whatever I might say here I could not do them justice. However it might be worthy to note that they covered almost every spectrum possible. There were talks on its discovery, its development and early use. Talks about its pharmacology, its physiology and its chemistry too. Talks on the counterculture, its influence from the 60s to today, including its revival during the 90s rave scene. Talks on its influences in art, writing and music from The
Grateful Dead to the Beatles. Talks about its use in psychotherapy, spiritual healing and use for terminally ill patients facing the prospect of death. Talks about its potential in understanding the mind, uncovering unknown powers of intuition, insight empathy and great creativity. Talks on its future, how to change its image and bring it back to the institutions, back into the mainstream, to bring it from the counterculture and place it back into mainstream study.
Of course it was not all about LSD. Magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, mescaline containing cacti and other sacraments were discussed. There were talks on ancient cultures and the thousands of years when use of such tools was held in high esteem and indeed talks on where it is still used in shamanic practises today. Alexander and Anne Shulgin gave talks on the many hundred of phenethylamines and tryptamines they have created and worked with.
All the while there were a great number of talks, workshops, panels, and films going on. There was something for everyone, always more on that you could possible see. Of course this is just the main program, there is always the supporting forum, offering a more intimate series of talks and presentations, not to mention the other items on exhibition from historical artefacts to works of art always available to peruse at your leisure.
This was an intellectual festival. You could see what you wanted, learn as much as the brain can handle and always be in a place that seemed specifically tailored to you. Not only this but the seemingly 'larger than life' characters that attended, all the big-wigs of the psychedelic movement since the 60s, not only present but approachable. Able to give a quick chat (when not being chased after by other symposium goers of course) and many giving out their email addresses to establish further contact.
There was a truly cosmic feel about the place. Like a second 60s, a feel that something big was taking place. That we could be entering a new dawn for these substances and a new era of science as we know it.
I had this discussion with many others at the symposium, and in the end I felt that I could only sum up the event in one word, the word would have to be, EPIC!!
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