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Hofmann's mates want another party

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The organisers of January's 100th birthday bash for the inventor of LSD, Albert Hofmann, have run out of cash. What happened? Gatecrashers, of course.

Now, 11 weeks since the sun came up on the biggest psychedelic shindig ever held in high society, and reality has come back with a thud.

But the torch bearers of the spiritual enlightenment are not going to let the inconveniences of the material world deter them. The Gaia Media Foundation, St. Hofmann's gig promoters, have put a call out for sponsors so they can convene another gathering of LSD activists.

The theme this time will be global consciousness. More specifically, according to Dieter Hagenbach, president of the foundation, friend and collaborator of Hofmann: "What are the effects of psychedelics on the level of Gaia's issues: peace movements, global economics and global consciousness".

But they won't be raving again before the year's out because January's bash dried them out.

"Even when the Symposium had more participants as expected, the costs have also grown substantially; for additional speakers, rooms, technical supply, and supporting events, and thus exceeded our budget," said the GMF in its call for sponsors.

"This means that finally the Symposium closed its books barely above break even, wages of the organizational associates couldn't be paid fully, and after all and most important, the needed reserve assets couldn't be earned," it continued.

Even Hofmann's birthday failed to attract sponsors. But it did attract an unprecedented amount of publicity for a GMF-led campaign to have LSD reinstated in as a wonder drug for psychologists, therapists and space cadets.

A letter (drafted in January, sent 10 days ago) has been sent to governments and academic institutions around the world, requesting that the laws that prohibit scientific research in the effects of psychedelic drugs on consciousness and psychology be relaxed.*

The mixed bag of signatories, all speakers at the conference, suggest how inseparable psychedelic science and spirituality have become; and therefore, how difficult it will be for the campaign to convince the fuddy old goats who call themselves policy makers to relax the rules. It was the pseudo-shamans who got LSD banned from university labs in the first place.

So the petitioners can count among their number St. Hofmann and a host of academics from distinguished institutions like Harvard Medical School. And then there those whose agitation might only er, agitate the squares who set the rules: Sue Hall, "Trancedancer through the 60s and 90s, psychonaut Buddhist, DJ"; Earth and Fire Erowid, "professional drug geek" and "psychedelic librarian" (see); Reynold Nicole, "Astrologist"; and Beatrice Rubli, "medium, psychic healer".

Hofmann joined the board of GMF after the party, arguably a symbolic resignation to the mystical elements that have always linked psychologists and spiritualists, at least until the materialistic, post-war age, that is. The sight of the Dalai Lama at Stanford University last November, collaborating with neuroscientists and conducting meditation, illustrated how science is helping rebuild the bridges between the quacks and the cuckoos.

Even LSD culture is entwined with science nowadays. January's LSD symposium featured a Saturday night concert of music generated from the frequencies measured in the infrared spectrum of LSD; while another set featured a "psychedelic symphony in five movements" inspired by the "astronomical positions of our solar system's planets" when LSD was serendipitously discovered (as Hofmann would have it), on 16 April 1943. A specific astrological chart of the event is unlikely owing to the predisposition of the scientist at the time, which is recorded roughly as some time in the afternoon.

* There was an interesting debate on the topic at the end of Radio 4's All in the Mind programme on 4 April. The programme can be repeated at will here

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