Between April 16 – 19, 1993, communities in three distant locales (San Francisco, Basel, and Tokyo) coordinated a series of events intended to celebrate the semicentennial (or 50th anniversary) of the discovery of the psychoactive effects of LSD by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in his lab at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in Basel (there was also a large event at Hyde Park, London and probably elsewhere–if you know of celebrations elsewhere in 1993, please do leave a comment). Although the event was organized around that moment of discovery that led to Hofmann’s famous ‘altered’ bike ride home, it was, of course, more importantly, the chain of history that followed in the wake of Hofmann’s discovery–the potent effects of the chemical on the minds of others the world over–that was really being commemorated. Had his unintended experiment been a one-off event that never moved beyond Basel and the confines of his own mind, we would not be paying attention. But, as an origin story, it’s a fairly compelling one–everyone can get into a bike ride, and people like to imagine themselves in his, unexpectedly stoned, shoes. Indeed, for the Basel celebration, a select 25 lottery winners actually got to participate in a bike ride along the exact route (see image below) that Hofmann is supposed to have taken on that fateful April day in 1943. In commemoration of the worldwide coordination of events, a newspaper called Lysergic World was created.
The newspaper contained a variety of LSD-related features for its readers, including a world map of locations of important events in the life of LSD (created, in part, by Kat Harrison), an essay by Madonna about a “24-hour orgasm under LSD,” a list of slang terms, a horoscope for the birth of LSD, a cartoon history, and bios of important figures:
Lysergic World also included a list of recommended music with the list topped off by Terence McKenna’s Re-Evolution track with The Shamen:
And, in a section documenting a variety of views on LSD, Terence McKenna is quoted:
Terence also appeared at some of the events that took place in the Bay Area over the weekend. There was also a video message from Dr. Hofmann who was in Basel:
There’s a part of the newspaper, however, that I am a bit at a loss to explain and hope that somebody can account for. I would very much like to know exactly what it means that an anthropomorphized LSD molecule welcoming readers to the publication says “I’m very happy that you white humans are celebrating the 50th anniversary of your ‘discovering me” [emphasis mine]. How are we supposed to interpret that? Where did it come from? If a typo, it’s a rather odd one….if a purposeful entry, it’s something that needs some explaining!
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