Pahnke WN, Richards WA.
“Implications of LSD and Experimental Mysticism”.
J Religion and Health. 1966;5:175-208.
Mirrored in the sensationalistic array of recent magazine and newspaper articles focusing upon the past, present, and future uses of drugs like LSD is a blurred spectrum of attitudes ranging from an indignant desire to destroy a terrifying plague of drug-induced psychoses to a naive belief that the keys to Utopia have finally been placed into the hands of man. In the light of this complex controversy, the need soberly to consider the potential dangers and values inherent in this field of research from theological, psychiatric, and societal perspectives has become crucial. The special class of drugs in question, including lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin, and mescaline, to name the major examples, has been given many names, from psychotomimetic to mysticomimetic, but the two terms that are gaining acceptance are psycholytic (mind-releasing) in Europe and psychedelic (mind-opening) in the United States. These drugs are not narcotics, sedatives, or energizers, but have the unique effect on the human psyche of bringing into awareness forms of consciousness that are usually hidden or unconscious.
At the outset it must be stated that since the statistics of the first major attempts at controlled experimentation in this field are still being compiled, none of the proposed uses of these drugs can at present be supported by conclusive empirical data. The high hopes that constructive uses of these drugs may be validated empirically, however, are reflected in the formation of the International Association for Psychodelytic Therapy; in international conferences on the use of LSD in psychotherapy, held in New York City in 1959 (Abramson, 1960), in London in 1961 (Crockett, Sandison, & Walk, 1963), and on Long Island in 1965 (Abramson, 1967); and in the two days devoted to the psychedelics in March, 1966, by the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum in Washington. In the midst of this experimental ferment, however, we are confronted by the very real possibility that the known and unknown uses of these drugs that could prove to be legitimate and beneficial for individual persons and society may be suppressed until some future century when investigation will be permitted to proceed unhampered by popular hysteria and overrestrictive legislation. In the United States, interested and capable scientists are hesitating to investigate this field because of the abundance of unfavorable publicity and the threat of condemnation by identification with irresponsible researchers. Even among those who are willing to risk their reputations, some are finding it difficult to obtain the governmental approval now prerequisite for the legal acquisition of these drugs for research purposes. Paradoxically, a significant danger confronting our society may lie in losing out on the values that the responsible use of these drugs may offer. Hypnosis, for example, is only beginning to recover from the sensationalistic publicity and irrational reactions that surrounded Mesmer and subsequently suppressed its legitimate use for almost a century.