Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:09 pm

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Wed Sep 25, 2013 6:43 pm

http://www.psmag.com/culture/the-merry- ... war-60873/

The Merry Pranksters Who Hacked the Afghan War

It was a dark time in a long, drawn-out war. Afghanistan was festering with resentment. The Pentagon brass were desperate. It was the kind of last-ditch moment when authorities start throwing an era’s weirdest ideas at its most hopeless bureaucratic mistakes.

July 1, 2013 • By Brian Calvert


For a long time, the Taj Guest House was about the only place you could get a beer in Jalalabad. The provincial capital, about 30 miles from the infamous mountains of Tora Bora, has been the main staging ground for U.S.-led forces in the eastern part of Afghanistan since the early days of the war. When I showed up in the city in November 2011 to report on the propaganda efforts of a franchising Taliban, I found myself at the Taj. There wasn’t much to the pub—just a bamboo-covered bar, a fireplace, a glass-fronted cooler with some Heineken stacked inside, and a few bottles of vodka and other spirits lined up under the red glow of a lamp.

Plus there was an odd little sign: “We share information, communication, (and beer).”

Behind the Taj’s main building was a second villa with an imposing cluster of satellite dishes and antennae jutting from its roof. The villa housed a small team of young expatriates, half a dozen or so women and men who generally kept to themselves. Their apparent leader was a tall, broad-shouldered man who seemed always in a hurry. Looking like a cross between a mountaineer and a mathematician, he had a salt-and-pepper beard and curly hair that hung down to his shoulders, and he favored a uniform of black polo shirts over tied-dyed tees. His name was Dr. Dave Warner.

War zones attract a lot of sketchy characters. In Afghanistan and Iraq, where defense contractors have generally outnumbered soldiers on the ground, the cast of extras has been especially sprawling and inscrutable—security experts, mercenaries, aid workers, engineers, intelligence types, and consultants of every kind. It was just a guess, but given the array on the roof, I took Warner and his team for spooks of some kind.

One night, while a fire was burning in the hearth at the Taj, I found Warner sitting at the bar, staring at his laptop through small, square glasses. I grabbed a beer and struck up a conversation, looking over his shoulder as a digital animation twirled across his screen—rings of gold, purple, and blue rotating over a satellite image of the city of Jalalabad. To my surprise, he was happy to explain. “See that?” Warner said, zooming in and pointing at a small doughnut shape spinning around a larger figure. “That’s a fruit vendor going around and around the market.”

What we were looking at was a data-visualization tool he had created, called Antz. The patterns on the screen reflected actual information from the environs in Jalalabad—records of attacks on coalition forces, funding and logistical data for various reconstruction projects, the movements of people. Warner believed the program was a step toward better intelligence analysis. But he made a point of telling me that none of the information on the screen was classified. He had built the model entirely from freely available data that he and his team had harvested from the city.

I was at best half right in my guess about Warner’s occupation. He did indeed work for U.S. intelligence sometimes, he explained, but he wasn’t a spy. On principle, he refused to get a security clearance, out of a belief in something he called “radical inclusion.” The most valuable information in a conflict or disaster zone, he said, was information that could be shared with everybody.

The term radical inclusion stopped me. I recognized it from the summer of 1998, when I had gone to Burning Man, the hedonistic-fire-worshipper-art-festival that occurs every summer in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Radical inclusion is one of the event’s “Ten Principles.” When I mentioned this, Warner’s eyes lit up. He dug into his T-shirt and pulled out a shining Burning Man medallion. “Dude,” he said, grinning in the firelight. “This is a Burner bar.”


WARNER’S ENTIRE TEAM—WHICH he called, in all seriousness, the Synergy Strike Force—had just attended Burning Man that summer. He himself had been attending annually since 2002. And the bar, it turned out, was his bar.

Warner held the lease on the Taj, and he ran it with the help of an Afghan man, a former shepherd turned beekeeper turned tobacconist turned pool cleaner turned guesthouse manager named Mehrab. By design, the Taj sat “outside the wire,” beyond the security perimeter of the nearby coalition airfield. It was not only a place to drink and flop but also a kind of grand social experiment—an outpost of the Burning Man ethos in the Afghan desert.

What Warner meant when he called the Taj a “Burner bar” was that it operated, in part, according to a barter system. One of the standing rules at the guesthouse was that any expat could exchange information for booze. In a war zone where so many different agencies, companies, and contractors passed like wary ships in the night, one of the biggest problems was that no one could coordinate knowledge. No one, that is, except maybe a bartender. Under the banner of “Beer for Data,” Warner had turned the Taj into a major clearinghouse for information in Jalalabad. It accumulated by the terabyte on his hard drives: construction plans, hydrology surveys, health-clinic locations, election polling sites, names of farmers, number of trees on their farms, number of acres. What Warner collected he then passed on to the United Nations, the Pentagon, and anyone else who asked for it.

Warner let on that there was a lot more to tell, and that he was making a trip into the field a couple days later. But he offered no invitation, and I went to bed, leaving him at his laptop.

And that was how I met Dr. Dave: a former U.S. Army drill instructor, self-avowed “hippie doctor,” PhD neuroscientist, technotopian idealist, dedicated Burner, dabbler in psychedelics, insatiable meddler, and (weirdest of all) defense contractor. Unlike the guys who had come to the war mainly for the hazard pay, Warner seemed genuinely bent on something far grander—redeeming the debacle of Afghanistan through the gospel of open information.

However romantic that gospel sounded, by this point in the war it was clear there was plenty that needed redeeming. Despite rosy assessments from American politicians and diplomats, Afghanistan was a much less welcoming place in 2011 than it had been on my first visit, five years earlier. In private courtyards, in markets and mosques, and in insurgent enclaves around the country, almost everyone, it seemed, was impatiently waiting for the Americans to leave. The international forces that had been so successful in ousting the Taliban at the outset of the military campaign had been flummoxed by years of grinding insurgency and the persistence of Afghanistan’s complexities—its rules and rites, traditions and customs. Added to all that was a culture of secrecy and mistrust between military units and the development agencies, both international and local, that had rushed into the power gaps left by the Taliban rout.

The war effort, in short, was sophisticated when it came to deploying lethal hardware like drones, but clumsy in just about every other way. A few people in the upper echelons of the command structure were painfully aware of this. Warner knew because he had their ear. He had connections in the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the Army Special Forces, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He also knew what an unlikely figure he cut—a Burner among bureaucrats. When I asked him later why the Department of Defense had turned to him, he shook his head and laughed. “Oh,” he said, “they’re fucking desperate.”


IN THE EARLY MORNING two days later, I heard a knock on my door, followed by Warner’s voice asking me if I could be ready to leave in five minutes. After I had scrambled into my clothes, we piled into a Toyota Corolla and headed out of town, leaving the jammed streets behind and speeding into the empty desert. This was more than a little unnerving. In 2006, I was embedded with U.S. forces for over five weeks, and trips outside the wire were always more or less the same. You’re crammed into a plated Humvee in an armed convoy, bundled up in heavy body armor, twitchy with anticipation. Warner and I had no weapons and no armor, and were at best thinly disguised by the Afghan clothes, scarves, and hats we wore. As we pulled away from the guesthouse, I took a deep breath. Dr. Dave looked at me for a moment and softly said, “Wheeee.”

Warner told me he had been hired—through a contracting company, which was hired in turn by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (better known as DARPA, or the folks who brought you the Internet)—to research ways of crowdsourcing information from Afghans. Because most Afghans lack computers and are at best semiliterate, Warner began with an ingeniously low-tech approach. The Synergy Strike Force enlisted a local radio station to broadcast questions to its audience and ask them to respond via text message—questions like Who’s your favorite cricket player? The team also solicited texts that might deliver more valuable information on, say, agricultural markets—What’s the price of mutton, gasoline, or milk today?

But Warner didn’t stop there. One of the destinations on our trip was a village about 30 miles outside Jalalabad. There Warner led me inside a compound, up a flight of stairs, and into a cramped room with bare concrete walls, where a group of boys were hunched over a bank of dusty Dell computers. They were drawing Afghan flags with Microsoft Paint. On the roof, two banks of solar panels powered the computers, supplemented by a gas-powered generator for rare cloudy days.

Using various pots of money, Warner had built dozens of these solar-powered computer labs around the province. Some, like this one, didn’t have an Internet connection—at least not yet—and were, in Warner’s mind, just stepping stones to the computer literacy that would one day make these kids potential sources of crowdsourced information. Other computer labs, closer to town, had Internet pumped in from the antennae and satellite dishes on the roof of the Taj. In those labs, Warner and his team were teaching Afghans how to use OpenStreetMap, a Web-based platform that allows users to add fine-grained local information to existing satellite maps. (As a result, the OpenStreetMap page for Jalalabad is exquisite.)

Warner was doing it on the cheap—no security details, no armored vehicles—stretching his DARPA funding and his own bank account fairly far. “For the price of two expat security contractors,” he boasted, “I can put Internet to 50,000 students.” But it wasn’t just about power or the Web.

Warner sees technology on a continuum that stretches all the way down to the most basic tools. After crossing a rocky, dry streambed, the Corolla came to a halt in a desolate stretch of desert that Warner called “the moon.” A few hundred yards away, in the middle of a sunbaked boulder field, clusters of kids sat on the ground, chanting the alphabet in front of blackboards that Warner had purchased for them. Younger children sat in circles, leaning over notepads: a classroom in the sun. A few tents had been erected nearby: shade for when the heat became unbearable.

As the children chimed out their letters, a few local elders came over to Warner (they knew him simply as an “American businessman” interested in helping them) and showed him a well they had recently dug with his support. Then they guided us to a mat laid out on the ground. Over tall glasses of water and plates of bananas and shiny red apples, Warner and a young Afghan member of the Synergy Strike Force sat with the men as they explained what more they might need—a schoolhouse with walls, an animal clinic, electricity, bridges, irrigation ditches, a cow so they wouldn’t have to buy milk every day, more security, less war.

Warner saw this school as the beginning of a “cyber node,” a place that could eventually be wired up, along with other primitive schools he was scouting on the Pakistan border. To him it seemed obvious—information about the world would bring Afghans out of isolation.

Dave’s work also had the effect, it so happened, of winning hearts and minds in a battle zone. This patch of desert was routinely crossed by insurgents who slipped out of the mountains of Pakistan to make mischief in the remote villages of Nangarhar Province. “If I were a tactical battle-space commander,” Warner said, “this would be called preparation of the battle space.”

I was just beginning to get used to his way of talking, which alternated between turgid military jargon and gonzo flights of fancy. (“I’m dismantling the Death Star,” he told me later, “to build solar ovens for the Ewoks.”) Ultimately, what he wanted to do was help the Department of Defense and all its scattered parts—a hulking war apparatus he derisively called “The Machine”—help itself. “I’ve foolishly created my own counterinsurgency,” he said.


I SPENT THE NEXT few days back at the Taj getting to know the Synergy Strike Force—essentially a loose-knit collective of volunteers and contractors who followed Dr. Dave. The name may have been whimsical, but it wasn’t a joke. Warner showed me a military-style patch he’d designed himself, displaying a white- winged, faceless angel holding a caduceus in one hand, a lightning bolt in the other, and the Earth cradled between the two.

Three members of the group were living at the Taj full-time: Jennifer Gold, 26, a National Guard intelligence analyst who had decided to stay in Afghanistan after her deployment ended; Rachel Robb, 27, a human-rights advocate with experience mainly in South America; and her husband, Juan Rodriguez, 28, a photographer from Colombia. Others made occasional visits, including a pink-haired futurist from San Francisco.

As far as I could tell, being part of the group basically entailed living at the Taj, finding problems, and fixing them. “This is the whole idea behind the Synergy Strike Force—don’t come here with a project that you’re going to try to impose on people,” Robb told me one afternoon in the Taj’s grassy courtyard. “Come here, spend time with people and see what’s needed, and see if you can use your skills.”

In 2009, the group had helped set up a system to crowdsource reports of election-rules violations via text messages from all over the country. And during my visit, Gold, Robb, and Rodriguez were wrapping up a project in which they used SMS texts to reach midwives in far-flung Kunar province to solicit medical information about mothers and their newborns.

The group was also engaged in various maker-ish side projects worthy of Burning Man. Gold was busy building a methane generator from PVC pipe and an old oil drum. The design, popular among self-sufficiency buffs on the Internet, allows you to filter the gasses that come off human waste into pure methane, which can be used as a fuel source.

No matter what they did, Warner encouraged the group to rely on the local connections he had built up over the years, and to keep their distance from the “battle rattle” of the military—the spectacle of nervous, heavily armed soldiers trying to interface with an equally nervous, unarmed population. “We’re able to approach people because we aren’t carrying all this armor and weapons,” Robb said.

Gold, who had come away disillusioned after serving a tour in Iraq, knew all too well how little could be accomplished from a fortified position behind the wire. “You can’t commute to the war,” she said as we sat in the courtyard, taking a break from her methane generator. “But that’s exactly what these guys are doing.”


NOT SURPRISINGLY DR. DAVE’S own road to war was strange and circuitous. A teenage runaway from a Seventh-day Adventist family in Central California, Warner enlisted in the army in 1980, at age 19. He served as a TOW-missile gunner and drill sergeant before finding his way to college and then medical school. Somewhere along the way he started experimenting with LSD and steeping himself in the tech world. He was particularly interested in finding ways to use virtual reality—then much discussed in military circles as a way to train soldiers—for non-military ends.

In 1994, while Warner was still completing medical school at Loma Linda University, he started working with a seven-year-old patient named Ashley Hughes. Hughes had been paralyzed since birth, but she had motor function in her face—she could wiggle her cheeks, wink an eye, raise an eyebrow. With Warner’s help, she learned to play computer games and drive a remote-control vehicle using only her facial movements, with sensors translating her muscle twitches into digital commands. Later, by outfitting a mannequin’s head with small cameras for eyes and microphones for ears, and then connecting those inputs to a pair of 3-D goggles and a set of earphones, Warner gave Hughes—who had never swum in a swimming pool, climbed a tree, or looked over her backyard fence—the virtual experience of doing all those things.

Warner’s work with Hughes and other patients landed him on World News Tonight With Peter Jennings, and in the pages of The New York Times. It also caught the attention of a few people at DARPA, who approached Warner about doing some work for them. He took the research he’d done on sensors and started designing gloves that could control robots, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other machines.

Bit by bit, however, Warner was becoming less interested in virtual reality or physiology per se, and more interested in the underlying information itself—whether it was the signals being transmitted from the cheek muscles of a little girl with a disability, or spatial models of vendors moving around an Afghan market. “I have a philosophy that I can alter outcomes with information,” Warner told me. “I started this idea in med school. I was like, God, if I could use information to change people’s behavior—to make them better doctors, make patients smarter, that sort of thing—we can reduce disease and suffering.”

He called this philosophy “interventional informatics.”

And he wasn’t the only person contemplating the new powers of information. He began forging friendships with like-minded folks inside the defense, intelligence, and emergency-response communities—all of them looking for ways to use nascent information technologies to help them do their jobs amid natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or wars. Warner was invited along to visit U.N. outposts in Africa, disaster exercises in the U.S., and in, 2004, the tsunami-struck coast of Indonesia. In each, he found that poor cooperation and communication were epidemic among the major players.

Around 2000, he started talking with a man named Linton Wells, an information specialist then in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. By 2006, Wells was trying to figure out how to stimulate more interaction between military and civilian entities in Afghanistan. This had become a huge problem there, as it had in Iraq—both were war zones where international forces and aid agencies mixed in unprecedentedly complex ways. One problem was that people under different charters or chains of command weren’t sharing even unclassified information. So Wells asked Warner to go to Afghanistan and see whether he could come up with some ideas.

That’s when Warner found his way to Jalalabad and to the Taj, which at the time was run by the U.N. Mission. Thursday nights, the end of the Afghan workweek and the eve of the Muslim Sabbath, were particularly popular with the clientele. On one such evening at the Taj, over drinks with the myriad characters at the bar, Warner learned more about the war than he had at any of the official meetings he’d been to that week. A year later, he brought a computer and a hard drive to the bar and posted a sign saying he’d buy a beer for anyone who brought in information. And thus “Beer for Data” was born. He took over the Taj and its bar in May 2009.

It was just the kind of thing his patrons in the military wanted to see. Warner knows how to get things done, Wells told me, how to “genuinely move the ball down the field in ways that a lot of people can’t.”

Eric Rasmussen, one of Warner’s early sponsors at DARPA, has come away similarly awed by the doctor’s capacities. “I was taught by multiple Nobel Prize winners, and Dave is the equal of any of them in intelligence,” Rasmussen told me. Warner has been “trendsetting for a number of very forward-thinking organizations, like the Strategic Studies Group for the Chief of Naval Operations, like DARPA, like the Office of Naval Research,” among others. “He has shaped curriculum for the Marine Corps. He has influenced curriculum for National Defense University. He is a remarkable intellectual force who has managed to hold on to his idealism through everything.” What’s more, he has done it all without a security clearance. “And that,” Rasmussen said, “if you remember the kind of work that he does—and for whom—is astonishing.”


OF COURSE, DAVE WARNER is not the first dreamer the military has ever turned to for help. Back in 2011, when I first met Warner and the Synergy Strike Force, I was immediately reminded of the book The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson, and its descriptions of the First Earth Battalion. In the 1970s, the Pentagon decided it needed a new bag of tools to fight future wars. It also needed to recover from its defeat in Vietnam. Morale in the military was dreadful, and the war machine seemed broken. To make matters worse, intelligence reports suggested that the People’s Republic of China had figured out a way to endow a few thousand children with powers of clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy, and X-ray vision. And so, in 1977, a Pentagon working group on human potential handed a young lieutenant colonel named Jim Channon an assignment: Search the New Age enclaves that were then sprouting in California for possible military applications, and find the outer limits of human potential.

Channon drew up a field manual, published by the Army in 1979, for something he called the First Earth Battalion. The manual included diagrams of chakras and the power of dreams. “The more dreams you have, the more you can create for yourself the future you desire,” the manual advises. Channon wanted to build a kind of super soldier, a warrior monk who could unlock psychic powers and overwhelm an enemy with little more than a kind gaze. Love and synergy, it so happens, were the core purported strengths of such a soldier.

“Synergy is possible when every soldier brings his or her individual best to the group task,” Channon wrote. “It is multiplied in strength again if that soldier truly loves the other members of the unit. Then we shall have the maximum combat power available.”

Channon saw the military as a place where a soldier could become a “guerrilla guru.” His First Earth soldiers would employ “battle tuning” through a daily yoga cat stretch, followed by a primal scream and leap. Their performance-enhancing regimen would include ginseng, amphetamines, rock and roll, and prayers to Mother Earth. “Ethical combat” and “benevolent weapons”—to include “indigenous music and words of peace,” symbolic flowers, and animals—would take on a changing world of conflict. “If in fact we want to have a heaven on earth, then a class of angels should come forth and begin the work,” Channon wrote. “Open your heart. The Universe will feed you.”

There were no amphetamines or primal screams at the Taj—none that I witnessed, at least—but the military’s dalliance with the Synergy Strike Force came from a similar spirit, the end-of-the-road experimentation that goes on when nothing seems to be going right. Sooner or later, the most esoteric, farthest-out ideas of an era are going to get thrown at the most intractable, most-monumental bureaucratic mistakes. Where Channon’s First Earth Battalion had dredged the New Age zeitgeist for military insights, the Synergy Strike Force was drawing from today’s answer to the human-potential movement—the technology-soaked, DIY-happy, crowdsource-everything ethos of Burning Man and the more exuberant corners of Silicon Valley. If you look closely at the angel on the Synergy Strike Force patch, you can see around its neck the same symbol that Warner was wearing the night I met him.


FOUR MONTHS AFTER I left Afghanistan, I stayed in fairly close touch with Warner and the Synergy Strike Force, keeping tabs on their projects and, in my heart of hearts, rooting for them. For a while I even considered volunteering at the Taj—to do what, I wasn’t sure. But the optimism was infectious.

It was not, however, enough to turn the tide in Afghanistan. In February 2012, a few months after I left Jalalabad, U.S. soldiers at Bagram Air Base collected a bunch of library books that Taliban prisoners had been using to pass messages to one another. As part of the disposal process, the soldiers burned them. The trouble was that some of the books were Korans. When Afghan forces on the base reported the desecration, riots erupted across the country. In Kabul, two U.S. officers were killed inside the Ministry of Interior. Seven more American soldiers were wounded in a grenade attack.

The very problems the Synergy Strike Force sought to counteract—the disconnect between the Machine and the Afghans, the chronic distrust—had reached a tipping point. The violence grew so bad that Robb, Rodriguez, and Gold fled the country. The Taj was left in the able hands of Mehrab, the guesthouse’s Afghan manager. Looking for a place to hunker down, the three expats decamped to Reno, of all places, to stay with a friend of Warner’s and continue their work remotely. I was living in Southern California at the time, so I drove up to see them. They were busy designing a project that would deliver neonatal advice to women in the Afghan countryside via robocalls. With characteristic whimsy, they called the project “What to Expect When You’re Expecting in the Hindu Kush.”

Rachel Robb tried to put a good face on their retreat from Jalalabad. “We decided we would be a lot more productive here in the U.S.,” she told me. “We’re definitely going back to Afghanistan. We haven’t left for good. It’s just, we’re here to kind of let things settle down.”


BUT THINGS DIDN’T SETTLE down. Not even close. On August 11, 2012, two gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed Mehrab as he sat in his car. The apparent assassination shook the team; nobody knew whether Mehrab had been killed for his work with the Synergy Strike Force (connecting women to the Internet was not a popular idea with everyone in the province) or whether some local grievance had been to blame.

Around the same time, the defense establishment’s enthusiasm for Warner vanished along with its funding. In September of last year, Warner wrote via email that he was “not getting love from the Machine” for a plan to build something he called the “Cyber Pass”—an extension of his solar-powered Internet schemes focused on areas along the Pakistan border. He was keeping the Taj afloat with his retirement savings and somehow managing to keep wiring a few more schools. He was still making occasional trips to Jalalabad. But the Synergy Strike Force had dissipated, its members moving on to other projects.

Last summer at Burning Man, members of the team gathered once again, and Warner invited me to join them. So I headed out to the Black Rock Desert and pitched a small tent next to Warner’s giant RV. He came out of nowhere, from the dust and the wind, as I was struggling with some rigging for a tarp. He was drinking a beer, wearing a tied-dyed shirt and cutoff jean shorts, with a tie-dyed bandana on his head and another around his neck. “We’re going to the temple,” he said, “for a service.”

The temple is a structure that gets built every year at Burning Man. Burners go there to mourn for whomever they have lost; we were going to mourn for Mehrab. I followed Warner out onto the desert playa, where in the distance the giant wooden statue of “The Man” waited to be burned at the end of the festival. We walked past a 20-foot-tall wooden statue of the word ego inset with trophies, past a field of plastic sunflowers, past men and women in various states of undress and inebriation. Warner took huge strides.

On the far side of the wide, flat, dusty playa stood the temple, a large structure reminiscent of an Asian pagoda, made of thin, filigreed wood panels. On the walls, people had scribbled notes both personal and universal—“I Miss You,” “Humanity Will Prevail”—and incense wafted through the interior. Warner gathered with other members of the Synergy Strike Force. He nailed a pakul hat to the wall, hung an Afghan scarf around it, and added a Synergy Strike Force patch. Around us, Burners wept and prayed. And at the end of the festival, the temple was burned to the ground, with everything in it.
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:10 pm

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Thu Sep 26, 2013 7:00 pm

"On June 29, 1955, a banker by the name of R. Gordon Wasson had stunned the world with his report on the psychedelic experience to be had by ingesting a certain mushroom, a report that appeared in Life magazine later that year. While Mexico taking the mushroom for the first time -- under the traditional setting and with a native shaman --Wasson was supposed to have been participating in a long-distance ESP experiment with Puharich, but as it turned out Wasson was too stoned to be of any use that day. The story generated an enormous amount of interest, coming on the heels of the Huxley's books, The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell, which were principally about mescaline. Wasson's experience was with psilocybin, the famous magic mushroom which has been the topic of both learned anthropological studies as well as pop culture accolades. The Life magazine story prompted a young Timothy Leary to go to Mexico in search of the elusive substance itself, and the CIA began an official search for more of it. It was the era of 'God's Flesh.'"

(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pg. 251)


Levenda goofed up on the date of the Life article in the above quote --it did not materialized until 1957. According to Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince (who are not always the most reliable sources) Puharich did indeed contact Wasson but whether he sent him on his quest I have been unable to determine. Puharich and Wasson did, however, attempt to conduct some type of experiment involving ESP and magic mushrooms.

"Puharich had settled on the psychoactive drugs used by shamans as the main focus of his research, and in 1953 had contacted R. Gordon Wasson, the first researcher to study the shamanic mushroom cult of Mexico. The two set up an experiment to see if the Mexican shamans, or curanderos, could, under the influence of the mushroom, visit the Round Table Foundation's laboratory in Maine. The long-distance experiment never happened, but it is interesting that Puharich was already thinking in terms of remote viewing..."

(The Stargate Conspiracy, Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, pgs. 186-187)

Stranger still is the fact that Puharich was wondering around rural Mexico himself in 1956 with famed Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos and possibly Arthur Young, the inventor of Bell Helicopter's first helicopter and a major (if little acknowledged) figure in the early New Age movement. Officially the trip was to locate "certain artifacts" (ibid, pg. 168) at the ancient site of Acambaro.

"In the summer of 1956, Puharich went to Mexico with Peter Hurkos, the famous psychic detective. In Uri, Puharich mentions Hurkos but does not mention Arthur Young on the trip; however other sources say that Young was present, which is entirely likely, but it then raises alarm bells that Puharich left Young's name out of his account... It is possible that Young himself wanted to keep this mission secret, since it took place at a time when the CIA was actively scrounging around the Mexican hinterlands looking for hallucinogenic drugs.

"The archaeological reason given as the cover for their trip was probably bogus, since Acambaro was already known as the site where thousands of pre-Colombian statues had been discovered in the 1930s and 1940s, so there would have been little reason to enlist a psychic detective like Hurkos to search for more of them in the same spot; but... it is entirely possible --no, probable --that Puharich was in Mexico for the same reason: to locate and identify hallucinogens for the Agency. Hurkos what have been along for cover, painting the trip as purely some whacked-out psychic archaeological dig..."

(Sinister Forces Book I, Peter Levenda, pgs. 250-251)


Hurkos (top) and Young (bottom)

Thus, Puharich was potentially wondering around rural Mexico in search of psychedelics (possibly on the behest of the US intelligence community) a full year after Wasson made his faithful journey.

http://visupview.blogspot.com/2013/08/p ... of_10.html
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:02 pm

Truth Hides

Truth hides under fallen rocks and stones
At the end of a disconnected phone
Truth hides down an unmarked street
Buried deep beneath your feet

Truth hides in people written out of history
Black leaders and inventors whose names
Remain a mystery
Great women recorded on ripped out pages
Obliterated wisdom, covered up faces

Truth is lost in the mists of empty Vision,
And found in the notebooks of those
Wrongfully imprisoned,
And in the evidence that was never brought to trial,

But not in the void behind the newsreaders' smile.
Truth hides whenever we lose our focus
Slips out the back, quickly replaced by the bogus,
Fleeing soundbites disguised as facts

That reappear in the small print on every contract
Truth hides on the other side of a two-way mirror
In countless documents sent straight to the shredder
That might finally give us the whole of the picture

But until the day we decide to dig a little deeper
We know that truth will hide
Under fallen rocks and stones
At the end of a disconnected phone

Down an unmarked street
And buried deep beneath your feet

Truth it a hide under rocks and stones
At the end of your line
Down an unmarked street
Truth it a hide under rocks and stones
At the end of your line...
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:24 am

http://www.kirotv.com/news/news/half-na ... nja/nZ7g8/

Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013

Police: Half-naked man who destroyed yachts ran from ‘ninja'

SEATTLE — A half-naked man who police said stole a boat and went on a rampage in a Seattle marina told police he was just trying to get away from a ninja.

Michael Bray's run from the so-called "Asian female ninja" began Sept. 15 when he boarded a 42-foot boat in the Queen City Yacht Club in the middle of the night, throttled the engine, and started repeatedly ramming neighboring boats and docks.

Dozens of people on board surrounding boats frantically screamed at him to stop, and called police.

But according to court documents, Bray didn't stop until a man on the shore fired a birdshot gun at the cabin of the boat he was driving. Police showed up shortly after to find Bray straddling the stern of the boat without pants.

Bray told them he was a CIA agent running from a female ninja. He also allegedly told one of two officers, "One of you are dead."

Court documents confirm Bray was not a CIA agent on the run, but was instead under the influence of alcohol, ecstasy and marijuana. He was taken to the hospital to treat the birdshot wounds on his face and hands.

The boats and docks that police say Bray rammed are considered a total loss, estimated at $483,000.

Bray has been charged with theft and malicious mischief and is being held on $100,000 bail.

Bray's arraignment, at which he is expected to enter a plea, is set for next month.
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 27, 2013 8:36 am

Into The Rites

The Chemist – Gwyllm (2013)

Just as persons who are being initiated into the Mysteries throng together at the outset amid tumult and shouting, and jostle against one another but when the holy rites are being performed and disclosed the people are immediately attentive in awe and silence, so too at the beginning of philosophy: about its portals also you will see great tumult and talking and boldness, as some boorishly and violently try to jostle their way towards the repute it bestows; but he who has succeeded in getting inside, and has seen a great light, as though a shrine were opened, adopts another bearing of silence and amazement, and “humble and orderly attends upon” reason as upon a god.

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:11 am

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:19 am

Worth a review:

Krystle Cole, Kidnapping Charges, and Involvement with the DEA

by Krystle Cole - June 10, 2009

During the past month, spammers have been targeting NeuroSoup with all sorts of different allegations. The main allegations are:

NeuroSoup is funded and ran by the DEA
I kidnapped and tortured a teenager

In this article I intend to address these issues so that we will be able to put them to rest. I have not hidden anything in my past, in fact, I wrote a book about it. Lysergic was published several years before I even started doing NeuroSoup or YouTube videos. Because of this, I thought most people knew my back story. Since the spammers started targeting me, I have realized that many people don't know the real story. I feel that everyone should be informed, so here goes...

I'm sure you have already heard some of the spammers' side of the story, but here it is once again:

Government informant Gordon Todd Skinner, along with his wife Krystle Ann Cole Skinner and William Ernest Hauck, an Oklahoma truck driver, have been charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap, torture of a teenager, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and drug trafficking. Allegedly the trio kidnapped a Broken Arrow 18 year old from a Tulsa hotel on or about July 4th. The teenager was a former companion of Ms. Skinner while she and her husband Gordon Todd Skinner were separated. The teen was held captive for 6 days in Oklahoma and Texas, beaten and injected with drugs as an act of revenge.

Just as a refresher, who is Gordon Todd Skinner? Todd was the DEA informant that turned in William Leonard Pickard and the largest LSD lab ever busted in history. Todd was also charged with murder at one time but he got off those charges because of his immunity for narcing out Pickard. Beyond that, Todd was a con man that swindled every person he came across.

As a side note: I want to make it clear that I did not testify against William Leonard Pickard, Todd did. I was subpoenaed to go to trial, I pled the fifth and left the courtroom. Since then, I have signed several affidavits for William Leonard Pickard to help with his appeals. I realize these affidavits sort of make me look bad, especially if read in the wrong context; I signed them for the purpose of helping him. I could care less what they make me look like. His freedom is much more important than my reputation.

Who is William Hauck in all of this? Todd introduced him to me as an old Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) buddy that worked for him as a part time hit man. Todd explained to me that I had never met him before because he was only brought in, in case of an emergency. Todd hadn’t seen him for eight years, and then he just showed up two weeks before Brad [changed victims name for his privacy] was kidnapped. I was scared to death of Hauck. His emotionless demeanor totally freaked me out. He carried a gun that had a metal military seal on the side of it, so at the time I tried to stay out of his way. During court Hauck claimed that he was only a truck driver. Defense Intelligence Agency, Truck Driver, or Both? Who knows... All I can say is that William Hauck knew way too much about medical procedures, torture techniques, how the government operated, and other things that out of fear for my safety I'm afraid to talk about. All I can say is that I truly believe that he was/is not just a truck driver.

* * *

Continues at: http://www.neurosoup.com/krystle_cole_k ... a_narc.htm
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Fri Sep 27, 2013 4:35 pm


Mati Klarwein,Cover art to Live Evil, 1972
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:27 pm

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Sat Sep 28, 2013 12:32 pm

From: Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings, by Rob Brezsny


Experiments and exercises in becoming a blasphemously reverent, lustfully compassionate, eternally changing Master of Transgressive Beauty

1. Take inventory of the extent to which your "No" reflex dominates your life. Notice for 24 hours (even in your dreams) how often you say or think:

"That's not right."
"I don't like them."
"I don't agree with that."
"They don't like me."
"That should be different from what it is."

Then retrain yourself to say "YES" at least 51 percent of the time. Start the transformation by saying "YES" aloud 22 times right now.

2. Go to the ugliest or most forlorn place you know -- a drugstore parking lot, the front porch of a crack house, a toxic waste dump, or the place that symbolizes your secret shame -- and build a shrine devoted to beauty, truth, and love.

Here are some suggestions about what to put in your shrine: a silk scarf; a smooth rock on which you've inscribed a haiku or joke with a felt-tip pen; coconut cookies or ginger candy; pumpkin seeds and an origami crane; a green kite shaped like a dragon; a music CD you love; a photo of your hero; a votive candle carved with your word of power; a rubber ducky; a bouquet of fresh beets; a print of Van Gogh's Starry Night.

3. Late at night when there's no traffic, stride down the middle of an empty road that by day is crawling with cars. Dance, careen, and sing songs that fill you with pleasurable emotions. Splay your arms triumphantly as you extemporize prayers in which you make extravagant demands and promises.

Give pet names to the trees you pass, declare your admiration for the workers who made the road, and celebrate your sovereignty over a territory that usually belongs to heavy machines and their operators.

4. What causes happiness? Brainstorm about it. Map out the foundations of your personal science of joy. Get serious about defining what makes you feel good.

To get you started, I'll name some experiences that might rouse your gratification: engaging in sensual pleasure; seeking the truth; being kind and moral; contemplating the meaning of life; escaping your routine; purging pent-up emotions. Do any of these work for you? Name at least ten more.

5. Have you ever seen the game called "Playing the Dozens"? Participants compete in the exercise of hurling witty insults at each other. Here are some examples: "You're so dumb, if you spoke your mind you'd be speechless." "Your mother is so old, she was a waitress at the Last Supper." "You're so ugly, you couldn't get laid if you were a brick."

I invite you to rebel against any impulse in you that resonates with the spirit of "Playing the Dozens." Instead, try a new game, "Paying the Tributes." Choose worthy targets and ransack your imagination to come up with smart, true, and amusing praise about them.

The best stuff will be specific to the person you're addressing, not generic, but here are some prototypes: "You're so far-seeing, you can probably catch a glimpse of the back of your own head." "You're so ingenious, you could use your nightmares to get rich and famous." "Your mastery of pronoia is so artful, you could convince me to love my worst enemy."

6. Salvador Dalí once staged a party in which guests were told to come disguised as characters from their nightmares. Do the reverse. Throw a bash in which everyone is invited to arrive dressed as a character from the most glorious dream they remember.

7. On a big piece of cardboard, make a sign that says, "I love to help; I need to give; please take some money." Then go out and stand on a traffic island while wearing your best clothes, and give away money to passing motorists. Offer a little more to drivers in rusty brown Pinto station wagons and 1976 El Camino Classics than those in a late-model Lexus or Jaguar.

8. In response to our culture's ever-rising levels of noise and frenzy, rites of purification have become more popular. Many people now recognize the value of taking periodic retreats. Withdrawing from their usual compulsions, they go on fasts, avoid mass media, practice celibacy, or even abstain from speaking.

While we applaud cleansing ceremonies like this, we recommend balancing them with periodic outbreaks of an equal and opposite custom: the Bliss Blitz.

During this celebration, you tune out the numbing banality of the daily grind. But instead of shrinking into asceticism, you indulge in uninhibited explorations of joy, release, and expansion. Turning away from the mildly stimulating distractions you seek out when you're bored or worried, you become inexhaustibly resourceful as you search for unsurpassable sources of cathartic pleasure.

Try it for a day or a week: the Bliss Blitz.

9. When many people talk about their childhoods, they emphasize the alienating, traumatic experiences they had, and fail to report the good times. This seems dishonest—a testament to the popularity of cynicism rather than a reflection of objective truth.

I don't mean to downplay the way your early encounters with pain demoralized your spirit. But as you reconnoiter the promise of pronoia, it's crucial for you to extol the gifts you were given in your early years: all the helpful encounters, kind teachings, and simple acts of grace that helped you bloom.

In Homer's epic tale The Odyssey, he described nepenthe, a mythical drug that induced the forgetfulness of pain and trouble. I'd like to imagine, in contrast, a potion that stirs up memories of delight, serenity, and fulfillment. Fantasize that you have taken such a tonic. Spend an hour or two remembering the glorious moments from your past.

10. "You can't wait for inspiration," proclaimed writer Jack London. "You have to go after it with a club." That sounds too violent to me, though I agree in principle that aggressiveness is the best policy in one's relationship with inspiration.

Try this: Don't wait for inspiration. Go after it with a butterfly net, lasso, sweet treats, fishing rod, court orders, beguiling smells, and sincere flattery.

11. Become a rapturist, which is the opposite of a terrorist: Conspire to unleash blessings on unsuspecting recipients, causing them to feel good.

Before bringing your work as a rapturist to strangers, practice with two close companions. Offer them each a gift that fires up their ambitions. It should not be a practical necessity or consumer fetish, but rather a provocative tool or toy. Give them an imaginative boon they've been hesitant to ask for, a beautiful thing that expands their self-image, a surprising intervention that says, "I love the way you move me."

12. "There are two ways for a person to look for adventure," said the Lone Ranger, an old TV character. "By tearing everything down, or building everything up." Give an example of each from your own life.

13. To many people, "sacrifice" is a demoralizing word that connotes deprivation. Is that how you feel? Do you make sacrifices because you're forced to, or maybe because your generosity prompts you to incur a loss in order to further a good cause?

Originally, "sacrifice" had a different meaning: to give up something valuable in order that something even more valuable might be obtained. Carry out an action that embodies this definition. For instance, sacrifice a mediocre pleasure so as to free yourself to pursue a more exalted pleasure.

14. What is the holiest river in the world? Some might say the Ganges in India. Others would propose the Jordan River or the River Nile. But I say the holiest river is the one that's closest to where you are right now.

Go to that river and commune with it. Throw a small treasure into it as an offering. Next, find a holy sidewalk to walk on, praise the holiness in a bus driver, kiss a holy tree, and shop at a holy store.

15. Are other people luckier than you? If so, psychologist Richard Wiseman says you can do something about it. His book The Luck Factor presents research that proves you can learn to be lucky. It's not a mystical force you're born with, he says, but a habit you can develop.

How? For starters, be open to new experiences, trust your gut wisdom, expect good fortune, see the bright side of challenging events, and master the art of maximizing serendipitous opportunities.

Name three specific actions you'll try in order to improve your luck.

16. Entomologist Justin O. Schmidt drew up an index to categorize the discomfort caused by stinging insects. The attack of the bald-faced hornet is "rich, hearty, slightly crunchy. Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door." A paper wasp delivers pain that's "caustic and burning," with a "distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut." The sweat bee, on the other hand, can hurt you in a way that's "light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm."

In bringing this to your attention, I want to inspire the pronoiac rebel in you. Your homework is to create an equally nuanced and precise index of three experiences that feel really good.

17. Some scholars believe the original Garden of Eden was where Iraq stands today. Though remnants of that ancient paradise survived into modern times, many were obliterated during the American war on Iraq. A Beauty and Truth Lab researcher who lives near the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers kept us posted on the fate of the most famous remnant: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Until the invasion, it was a gnarled stump near Nasiriyah. But today it's gone; only a crater remains.

Let this serve as an evocative symbol for you as you demolish your old ideas about paradise, freeing you up to conjure a fresh vision of your ideal realm.

18. "Two chemicals called actin and myosin evolved eons ago to allow the muscles in insect wings to contract and relax," writes Deepak Chopra in The Book of Secrets. "Today, the same two proteins are responsible for the beating of the human heart."

If you use your imagination, you can sense the connection between the flight of a dragonfly and the intelligent organ that renews its commitment to ­keeping you alive every second of your life. So use your imagination.

19. Is the world a dangerous, chaotic place with no inherent purpose, running on automatic like a malfunctioning machine and fundamentally inimical to your happiness? Or are you surrounded by helpers in a friendly universe that gives you challenges in order to make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier?

Trick questions! The answers may depend, at least to some degree, on what you believe is true.

Formulate a series of experiments that will allow you to objectively test the hypothesis that the universe is conspiring to help you.

20. The primary meaning of the word "healing" is "to cure what's diseased or broken." Medical practitioners focus on sick people. Philanthropists donate their money and social workers contribute their time to helping the underprivileged. Psychotherapists wrestle with their clients' traumas and neuroses.

I'm in awe of them all. The level of one's spiritual wisdom, I believe, is more accurately measured by helping people in need than by meditation skills, shamanic shapeshifting, supernatural powers, or esoteric knowledge.

But I also believe in a second kind of healing that is largely unrecognized: to supercharge what is already healthy; to lift up what's merely sufficient to a sublime state. Using this definition, describe two acts of healing: one you would enjoy performing on yourself and another you'd like to provide for someone you love.

P.S. What would the world look like if there were doctors who specialized in fostering robust health in their patients? What if the textbooks that psychotherapists used to evaluate their clients were crammed not just with descriptions of pathological states, but also with a catalogue of every variety of bliss, integrity, magnanimity, eros, and wisdom? Imagine how odd and wonderful it would be if universities began turning out professionals in a brand new field, the science of happiness.

21. Those who explore pronoia often find they have a growing capacity to help people laugh at themselves. While few arbiters of morality recognize this skill as a mark of high character, I put it near the top of my list. In my view, inducing people to take themselves less seriously is a supreme virtue. Do you have any interest in cultivating it? How might you go about it?

22 "Creativity is like driving a car at night," said E. L. Doctorow. "You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." I would add that life itself is like driving a car at night. You're often in the dark except for what's right in front of you. At least that's usually the case.

But for a few shining hours sometime soon, I predict you'll be able to see the big picture of where you're headed. It will be as if the whole world is suddenly illuminated by a prolonged burst of light; as if you're both driving your car and also watching your journey from high above. Write about what you see.

http://www.freewillastrology.com/beauty ... erapy.html
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Sat Sep 28, 2013 1:01 pm

Many of the crew presenting at this event appear elsewhere in this thread in connection to master chemist Pickard and associated Brotherhood types:

A Tribute to Sasha Shulgin
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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:48 pm

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Re: Tantra-Induced Delusional Syndrome ("TIDS")

Postby American Dream » Tue Oct 01, 2013 10:16 am

Source: Playboy
Date: March 2004

Blood, sweat and serotonin: the master chemist of the psychedelic movement and his 40-year battle with the government

By Mark Boal


Our story of the professor who gave the world ecstasy begins on the morning of June 2, 1994, in the hills above Berkeley, California, where Alexander Shulgin and his wife, Ann, were relaxing at home. At three minutes past nine, their tranquility was shattered by the roar of several police cars and a fire engine racing up their winding dirt driveway. Dozens of armed men and women jumped from the vehicles, their jackets marked SHERRIF'S DEPARTMENT, STATE NARCTICS, DEA.

The officers proceeded to tear through the Shulgins' closets and drawers and then dug up the sump. Finally, in a backyard shed, behind a rusty padlock, they found what they were looking for: Inside the dim, musty interior they saw rows and rows of glass vials containing pristine white powders and faintly yellow liquids. It was a trove of illegal drugs - nearly all the psychedelics in the pharmacopoeia - more than enough to send the average dealer to prison on multiple life sentences. But Dr. Shulgin was not arrested, nor was he charged with any crime. Instead, after an interrogation that lasted eight hours, one of the federal agents pulled from his jacket a worn copy of one of Shulgin's books and sheepishly asked for his autograph. Shulgin signed it, "Sasha - good luck."

The invasion ended, Shulgin, the man who synthesized the compound known as MDMA and introduced it to a select group of medical professionals in the late 1970s, went back to work. "The government has what it wants," he told a conference of chemist soon after. "My laboratory will remain open." Shulgin may be a stealth revolutionary, but he is not a raver (he hasn't, it is safe to say, had a pacifier in his mouth since infancy). Nor is he a hippie or a New Age guru. In fact, Shulgin is a brilliant academic with a fistful of patents and papers to his name, a former instructor at the University of California at Berkeley and a consultant for the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the Drug Enforcement Agency. He is a genial, cultured grandfather who adores Mozart and psychedelics - and has devoted his life to proving that that's not as loopy as it sounds.

So talented a chemist is Shulgin, and so desperate was the government for his knowledge, that for 20 years he possessed a rare license to manufacture any illegal drug. But while working for the DEA and presenting himself as a friend of law enforcement, he quietly carried on a double life, leading a tiny underground movement that continued the radical psychedelic research of the 1960s. After nearly achieving the movement's goal of establishing MDMA as a psychotherapeutic medicine, Shulgin suffered a crushing defeat in the mid-1980s when MDMA, by then known as ecstasy, became an illegal street drug. His reputation destroyed, he was exiled to the margins of his field, where he labored on in private, inventing a dazzling variety of psychedelic drugs.

By now Shulgin has created more than 100 molecules that produce altered states of consciousness, new ways of thinking, feeling and seeing - making him a kind of Einstein of pharmacology, if not one of the most influential scientists of his time. But even today his work is virtually unknown outside a select West Coast circle. At the age of 78 Shulgin is a ghost to history, mentioned only in passing in a few articles and missing from the scholarly drug books, the result of a careful, lifelong avoidance of the mainstream press as well as a dose of government suppression. But in an era when psychopharmacology is reassessing its past and future, Shulgin's legacy is far from decided. In fact, his influence is growing.


There is no university lab, no corner office in a glass hospital tower. The world's leading psychedelic chemist lives on a tumbledown property in the hills of Contra Costa County, in a ranch house sewn together from a patchwork of materials and sinking into the sandy soil. Nearby, a rickety red barn collapses in on itself by a pile of bricks and a sun-bleached pickup. The air is dry and hot, but the plantings that border the house bloom in intense, vivid reds and lush, bursting greens. Mount Diablo, brown under a cloudless sky, rises in the distance.

Shulgin is a mammoth old man, standing six-foot-four. Dressed in a faded Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and sandals, with a gray beard coiled around a broad jaw and silken white hair shooting off his head in every direction, he looks like a hippie Santa Claus. His blue-green eyes appear youthful; they shine with pleasure at our meeting on this Fourth of July, 2003. Grasping my outstretched hand in both of his, he greets me warmly with a broad smile. "Welcome, friend," he says.

Shulgin has thrown together a barbecue on the crumbling stone patio behind the house, and he introduces me to his friends, who are clustered in groups under a stand of trees and a patio umbrella, away from the brutal sun. He finds Ann, who is short, plump, gray-haired, obviously once gorgeous, draped in beads and Indian cloth, holding a pack of Capri Slims. She hugs me with motherly tenderness. Then Shulgin bends down to whisper in her ear, and she bursts out laughing like a little girl. "Oh my, Sasha, you'd better not."

Twenty-four years ago on this day and on this very spot, he married her while his best friend, a high-ranking DEA official in charge of the agency's West Coast laboratories, served as minister. Ann and Sasha have one of the most unusual marriages on record, a union devoted to sex, drugs and the pursuit of advanced neurochemistry, which they've chronicled in two strange and enchanting books, PIHKAL: A Chemical Love Story and TIHKAL: The Continuation. (The titles are acronyms "Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved" and "Tryptamines I Have Known and Loved.") These volumes not only contain the tales of two lifetimes' worth of psychedelic experiences but also include the recipes so that any good chemist can make Shulgin's drugs. On their kitchen table the Shulgins keep an index card inscribed with a quip from their old colleague Timothy Leary: "Psychedelic drugs inspire fear and panic in people who have never tried them."

Today's party is a typical Shulgin Fourth of July barbecue, the kind he has been throwing for decades. Freshly slaughtered lamb is being grilled over coals, and a handpicked dandelion and- boysenberry salad is on the table. His guests are the usual crowd of Marin County progressives, upper-middle-class folkies with trimmed beards and Gore-Tex hiking shoes. They drive Subaru station wagons and eat organic food. Yet they are also fellow travelers in Shulgin's psychedelic revolution. That gentleman over there, flying high on peyote tea, his pupils reduced to pins, says he once supplied most of the West Coast's LSD. That bearded businessman covertly finances California's marijuana-buying clubs. The medical executive in shorts and a T-shirt has smuggled precursor chemicals for Shulgin. The state legislator, his face shaded by a broad-brimmed bush hat, has fought to keep Shulgin free.

"Sasha and Ann became the core around which the psychedelic community really cohered," says Rick Doblin, who has a doctorate from Harvard and is the head of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a leading ecstasy advocacy group. "The Shulgins created the context for this whole community of people who really felt under attack in the wider culture." This elite community includes chairs of university departments, leading research scientists, an anthropologist, writers, M.D.'s, a research chemist and a wealthy entrepreneur. The most trusted among them are also members of Shulgin's "research group," a dozen or so volunteers who have met regularly for the past 30 years to be the first to road test hundreds of Shulgin's potent new drugs. Whenever he emerged from the lab clutching a promising variation of mescaline or LSD, Shulgin would gather the group and explain the basic chemistry and effects of his new molecule (for example, short, mild and emotional); then everyone would drink it down with a glass of juice and a notebook on hand to record the results while relaxing in some forest cabin, with a fire in the hearth and Bach on the five-channel home theater system.

These were effectively the drugs' first human trials, conducted outside the system of big science, without the red tape of a protocol from the Food and Drug Administration. Self testing gave Shulgin the freedom to work without restriction but at some cost to himself. Over the years he has become violently ill, blacked out, lain shaking on the floor and felt his limbs freeze and his bones disintegrate. Still, he believes he is under an ethical imperative to sample his drugs before he gives them to anyone else - human or animal.

He invents new combinations routinely and names them as if they were children. Each inspires high hopes at birth, and though some have gone on to fulfill his dreams, several notable ones - such as ecstasy, STP, 2CT7, 2CB and foxy methoxy - have slipped from his grasp and out to the street, where they've thrived as party drugs. Shulgin has many other babies with startling effects, which remain known only to connoisseurs. Their ultimate fate - as outlawed party favors or the radiant centers of a new age - lies beyond the master chemist's reach.

For now it is easy to see that the party guests revere the man they call Sasha as they take turns approaching him for an audience. (He responds with deft one-liners: "I think you mean the methylated tryptamine"; "Oscar Wilde once said....") Some of them are not afraid to share their respect with a reporter, like the man I meet by the buffet, a slim, bearded 50-something anesthesiologist in a black T-shirt. "I have so many questions for Sasha," he says, between forkfuls of salad. "This year I wrote them all down."

A few minutes later another bourgeois bohemian, wearing a faded tie-dyed shirt and a Breitling watch, asks for permission to videotape Shulgin working in the lab: "It would be so great just to get a few minutes, you know, of you working, because it's so incredible what you do." Shulgin nods. "Oh, yes," he says, "wonderful things happen in there." Then he touches the man fondly on the shoulder and waltzes away.


Psychedelics are the most pharmacologically complex compounds known, and in the 20th century the labs that have turned out new versions of them are few. They include the Sandoz Pharmaceutical laboratory in Vienna (LSD) and the lab in Alexander Shulgin's home. Shulgin has been working from home since 1967, when he walked away from corporate America after quitting a lucrative job at Dow Chemical to begin practicing his brand of alchemy. After nearly 40 years of combining his life with his chemistry, it is hard to tell where Shulgin's home ends and his lab begins.

The dining room is a nook stuffed with photographs of the Shulgins with counterculture icons, along with psychedelic knickknacks such as a ceramic toadstool and drug posters from Amsterdam. This is where Shulgin brainstorms new molecular structures on a yellow legal pad, usually after a bottle or more of a syrah crafted to his taste by a true believer who owns a boutique winery (the bottle is labeled SHULGIN: Wild and Sassy). Then Shulgin will take a few steps, duck his enormous head under the door frame and enter a book-lined study to check his chemistry reference texts. If all goes well there, he heads outside and down a winding dirt path, overgrown with psychoactive plants and vines, that leads to the backyard shed, the "wet lab," where he can lose himself for hours and where the real work gets done. It is a dark, loamy place, one step removed from a state of nature, with a dirt floor strewn with leaves. Ropy cobwebs hang from the ceiling to the floor (Shulgin believes it is immoral to kill spiders). The thick wooden tables, grooved and burned by acids, hold a few feet of plastic tubing, some vials and a Bunsen burner. Shulgin closes the door and sinks down onto a stool. "This is all I need," he says expansively, gesturing to the low-tech equipment. "Everything I need." He slides open a drawer full of shiny glass beakers and then runs his fingers lightly across them, as if he were touching a collection of the finest sterling silver. In a light, airy tone he explains that he has recently been working on cactus compounds, which he extracts by cutting the thorns with a nail clipper and pulping the plant in a blender.

He talks about his process. He orders pure serotonin, the chemical that many antidepressants boost to improve mood, from a chemistry supplier in Japan for about $8 a gram. Speaking as if we were ensconced in a university lecture hall and not in a dank, cavelike shed, Shulgin explains that after honing the serotonin into a precursor to a psychedelic, he drives to a supply house where he loads 50 pounds of dry ice into the trunk of his Geo. Then he works for weeks, freezing and boiling the molecule, adding acids and bases and then applying a myriad of intricate techniques until he finally brings the atoms to life. On most days Shulgin communes with his reagents and test tubes while the radio plays loudly. Like a jazz musician, he prizes spontaneity; in fact, his willingness to embrace the unexpected is undoubtedly the reason he has been so prolific. "I wonder what will happen if I put a thingamajig on this, take the doohickey down from there," he says, pointing in the air, "and stick it here and make the molecule just a teensy bit heavier and larger. How will it fit in the receptor? Will it be too big? You don't know." Shulgin's sentences move in unpredictable directions; you just try to follow the flight path and wait for one to land. "Chemistry is an art form," he continues, his tone growing urgent and excited. "It has nothing to do with split atoms and molecules and mathematics and kinetics and all that nonsense. It's an art form. It's like writing a piece of music. It is pure imagination." When Shulgin is alone in his lab, immersed in the rhythms of his work, his imagination always returns to the same mystery. It is the great unknown of biochemistry: the relationship between the shape and weight of a molecule and its effect on the mind, the so-called structure-activity relationship. "I was always interested in how, if you move one carbon atom, for example, on amphetamine, you can change it from being a strong stimulant to a psychedelic," he says. "How is it that the difference of one atom produces such a dramatically different result in the human? The answer is, nobody knows." If the atoms are tweaked again, the psychedelic can go from being a sparkling hallucinogen to a terrifying mindblower.

At the moment, Shulgin is working on a new psychedelic inspired by a compound he found in a cactus. He had seen a peculiar molecular structure in the cactus's juice and had the idea to replicate the pattern and glue it onto an existing tryptamine (a class of molecules that includes many psychedelics and melatonin), thus combining a natural molecule with a synthetic one. Shulgin believes the result will be a dazzling new compound. "Nature didn't know how to make it," he says, smiling, "but I do."

Like many members of the movement, Shulgin believes the psychedelic class of molecules holds promise as "insight" medicines that can catalyze the process of psychotherapy. On a neurochemical level, psychedelics release the same mood modifiers - such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine - as many antidepressants. But in ways that are still not fully understood, they also evoke a response that is far more complex than that elicited by Prozac or Wellbutrin. They stimulate areas of the brain associated with ego modulation, spiritual experiences and detecting novelty, as well as hearing, smell and sight. At lower doses, one's self-identity is retained, allowing for fresh, nonlinear thinking to trigger possibly important insights of self and of forgotten memories, or so the theory goes.

The American medical-pharmaceutical complex has embraced neither this idea nor Shulgin (in Europe his work has somewhat wider recognition). A few years ago, on an invitation from Dr. John Halpern, an associate director of Harvard's Biological Psychiatry Laboratory and one of a handful of doctors who believe that psychedelic medicine has a promising future, Shulgin gave a lecture to the psychiatry faculty. "It was a disaster," Halpern recalls. "He told this droll story about some doctor he gave psychedelics to, and you saw the residents in the audience turn white. But the older doctors in the front row, the dinosaurs of psychiatry who remember the 1950s, they were on the edge of their seats, lapping it up."

Almost as fast as he can create them, Shulgin's inventions have been declared illegal in America and around the world. Still, he takes the long view of history and believes that, in the end, the plasticity and variety of psychedelics will spark a new science of the mind. "I don't think it will be from one of the current drugs," he says. "Twenty, 50 years from now some kid will look at all of them and see an interesting thread in the pattern, and something will come from that. It's like the invention of the wheel; you need the wheels and the axle to make a horse and buggy, and then down the line someone makes a sports car." "The idea of developing Sasha's stuff into medicines is a daunting task," says Dr. Halpern. "It would take years and about a hundred million dollars to do the clinical studies on just one of his drugs, and he has hundreds of them. We don't even have all the answers for LSD, let alone his stuff. So I think it will be decades before his work is really even looked at, maybe longer."

The tour is over. There is nothing left to show me, because Shulgin will not work in the company of people he does not know. He doesn't even want a staff. "If I had junior chemists, it would be nice if they washed the dishes for me," he says, "but they'd really just be a kind of distraction."

He opens the door and ushers me out into the sunlight with a ceremonious wave of his hand. Then he bolts the lock and charges with long strides down the overgrown path, leaving me to follow behind. I think I am beginning to get a feel for when he's interested in talking, but as we near the house he looks back over his shoulder and quietly says, "It's a little bit sad, because I am not permitted to keep mementos of the things I make that become illegal." Then we're inside, and lunch is served.


Euphoria did not come naturally to Sasha Shulgin. Born in 1925 in Berkeley, he grew up in a somber household ruled by his father, Theodore, a Russian immigrant, and managed by his Midwestern mother, Henrietta, both of whom were high school teachers and strict disciplinarians. The Shulgins slept in separate bedrooms and would never hug or kiss in public. They forbade Sasha to visit girls; instead they taught him grim lessons in reality. Theodore Shulgin once left the carcass of the family dog to rot on the front porch so Sasha could observe the flesh as it slowly decayed and fell from the bone.

Shulgin took refuge in the basement. He would disappear down there for hours, thrilling to the dimness and the cobwebs, and go through all the fantastic junk that adults ignored. After exploring the sublevel in his own house, he proceeded to knock on neighbors' doors and ask to see their cellars, and then he branched out to tunnels and underground lairs of all kinds, becoming, he says, a "over of dark places"-a lonely, introverted boy, wildly intelligent, searching for unbreakable solitude. "A psychologist with nothing better to do," he writes jauntily in PIHKAL, "could have a bit of fun with why, when I was older, I built three basements in my house."

His first basement chemistry set had only bicarbonate of soda and dilute acetic acid. He accumulated more powders and liquids and mixed them into messes that fizzed and changed colors. Chemistry became his thing, his outlet, and by the time he went to Harvard-on a full scholarship at l6-he was sufficiently advanced in it to use it to express himself. Intimidated by Ivy League regality, Shulgin conveyed his discomfort by allowing a gooey batch of mercuric acetelite to dry on his dorm windowsills. When it hardened, it exploded, sending shattered glass into the yard. "It was an accident," he says now, with an amused smile. 'Just an experiment." Then he adds, as if to reassure me, "I replaced the windows."

When America entered World War II, Shulgin happily dropped out of Harvard and joined the Navy. In his ship's bunk he memorized a favorite chemistry textbook, and by the time the war was over he was prepared for a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Berkeley, followed by marriage (his first wife, Nina, died 30 years later) and a job at Dow Chemical. He immediately proved himself a wizard. Told to find a way to deal with the company's excess inventory, he scribbled a formula on the back of an envelope. "I told them, 'If you put a phosphate down here and put a carbonate up there, you have a physostigmine,"' he says. His supervisors asked what that was. Shulgin told them he was pretty sure it was the world's first biodegradable pesticide. Dow made a fortune on the pesticide (it spawned an entire line that is still in use), and as a reward Shulgin was given a lab and the freedom to do whatever he wanted. "So," he says, laughing, "I went into psychedelics."

The chemist became a convert after his first mescaline trip - on 400 milligrams, a massive dose. Emotional doors that had been locked his entire adult life swung open, and he felt showered with passion. "I saw a world that presented itself in several guises," he wrote. "It had a marvel of color that for me was without precedent.... I could see the intimate structure of a bee putting something in its sack on its hind leg to take to its hive, yet I was completely at peace with the bee's closeness to my face.... I had found my learning path."

Awed by his ability to be awed and left with "a burning desire to explain its profound action to myself and to the rest of mankind," Shulgin resolved to spend the rest of his career exploring psychedelics. Thus he would begin his double life, presenting himself as sympathetic to law enforcement, with low regard for street drugs but convinced that his beloved psychedelics were a "family that must stand apart."


Shulgin was not alone. The 1950s were a golden age in psychedelic studies. Aldous Huxley published The Doors of Perception and argued that mescaline could open an educated, sensitive mind to "love as the primary and fundamental cosmic fact." Artists and intellectuals like Shulgin took to Huxley enthusiastically. In drawing rooms and Beverly Hills doctors' offices, celebrities such as Cary Grant, Jack Nicholson and Esther Williams were experimenting, and Shulgin decided to join them with his own "mescaline studies."

At the same time, psychedelics were all the rage in therapeutic circles. At the Boston Psychopathic Hospital, doctors were looking into a bewitching new chemical, LSD, as a means to "elicit release of repressed material" into consciousness (they also investigated LSD as a truth serum for the CIA). Hundreds of other LSD clinical trials were under way, sponsored by the National Institutes of Mental Health. "These people were in no sense cultural rebels," says Dr. Lester Grinspoon, a noted Harvard University drug historian. "It's a nearly forgotten chapter in American psychiatry."

In the late 1960s, psychedelics - linked to Golden Gate Bridge suicides, Timothy Leary and the counterculture - became politically fraught, and scientific support for their study melted away. LSD was outlawed, and the FDA began denying research requests for LSD and mescaline, ending the prolific decade. Even chemists who had bet their careers on psychedelics moved on, but Shulgin never left his learning path, and he was soon the leading member of a once vibrant field.

He dealt with the FDA ban by making "designer drugs" that skirted the legal definition of a psychedelic. He described his new drugs in a steady stream of journal articles - such as "Role of 3,4- dimethoxyphenethylamin in Schizophrenia" in Nature - intended not for a mass audience but to keep the scientific ball rolling in a time of government hostility. Dr. Charles Grob, director of the child psychiatry department at UCLA Hospital, says, "Sasha is a scientist, and he gave the studies credibility. He carried the torch. Because of that he may one day be perceived - rightly, I think - as the father of an entire field of psychedelic medicine."

In 1967 Shulgin had his first brush with the unintended consequences of his imagination. An ultrapotent second generation analog of mescaline, a drug he called DOM, became known on the street as STP (serenity, tranquility, peace), and a drug epidemic tore through San Francisco. STP was sold in tabs that were four times stronger than the safe dose, and thousands of people who took it ended up in emergency rooms, hallucinating uncontrollably. "Maybe it became known from a seminar I gave at Johns Hopkins," Shulgin wrote in his only public comment on the DOM disaster. "Maybe the patents had been read."

On July 5 the Shulgins stay home to relax, recover and avoid the sun on a day when the heat rises from the earth in visible waves. Sasha and Ann do not have the means to install air-conditioning; he gets by on a small allowance from leasing land on his property (which his father bought in the 1930s) for a cell phone antenna, and along with his Social Security and his book sales (he distributes through Amazon.com) he makes enough to keep content. Ann, however, allows that she wouldn't mind cash to repair the kitchen linoleum where it has worn down to the bare wood planks. "Sasha told me in the beginning that he never planned to make money from his inventions," says Ann. "That was fine with me, but a little bit would be nice. It's a very old house."

Shulgin has already checked into the lab, having risen at seven in the morning, and when he meets me at the door he is wide awake and wearing his uniform: open shirt, shorts and sandals. These sandals - black custom-made jobs in the Birkenstock style - are practically stitched to Shulgin's feet; they look like they haven't been removed since the Summer of Love. He was wearing sandals on his wedding day and wore them with his tuxedo when he received a plaque from the Department of Justice (for his "significant personal efforts to help eliminate drug abuse"), and he sure is wearing them today. Of course, he has a theory for footwear: "I discovered that fungus is unable to grow on my feet if I wear sandals."

Ann is sitting in her usual chair by the screen door, looking perfectly at ease, smoking and fanning herself with a folded magazine. "Psychedelics are extraordinarily wonderful for another thing: lovemaking," she says, abruptly yet casually. "You know, as you get older you find there is more than the penetrative, pounding type of sex. And you can have a spiritual experience making love."

A low sound escapes my lips as I consider continuing the conversation, then decide I'm not that liberated. Reading PIHKAL and TIHKAL, I'd already come across several testimonies to the power of psychedelic sex. "The Bach was a moving thread of silver against a background of blue and orange," begins a typical passage. "I opened my eyes for a second to see [his] head rising from the pillow as his body strained against the ropes."

So it seems that Sasha and Ann are not simply married but delightfully married. Sasha has found his natural earth goddess, a bundle of loving energy he calls kiddo. As for Ann, she calls her husband her "big, beautiful man" or her "white haired magician." She drops her voice, speaking with the cool precision she learned as a medical transcriber. "For months he is absorbed in cactuses, and there are cactuses lying all over the house," she says. "Then he gets onto tryptamines, and I can tell you it's damn impossible to get him to go back to the cactuses." Her eyebrows arch. "What could be more exciting than constant change?"

It is an interesting question, given that one constant in the Shulgins' lives has been their ingestion of massive amounts of psychedelic drugs, a total that easily numbers in the tens of thousands of trips. Feeling "disorientated" in Aachen, Germany, where they had gone to attend a conference on nuclear medicine, they took 30 milligrams of an "erotic enhancer" they called 2CB and made love in the hotel room. In Lourdes, France Ann explored caves under the sway of ecstasy. Back home they packed a mushroom analog Sasha had synthesized and visited so-called energy centers such as Death Valley. When Sasha asked Ann to move in with him, they were both on LSD.

Sometimes, as in the case of Shulgin's first brush with a high dose of a drug they call "the teacher," a vigorous psychedelic that makes LSD look like a multivitamin, his journal records less than blissful reactions: "Am scared shitless.. .. Am I catalytically fixed...? I see myself dying," he wrote. He imagined himself as a very old man lying on the floor, his body wasting away to bone. But he refuses to linger on that awful image, with its echo of his childhood pet, dismissing it as a "nihilist illusion" and retreating to a discussion of the shape of the molecule.

His most visionary experience was itself a reflection of his obsession with structure and form. He had swallowed some strongly hallucinogenic ALEPH compounds and was walking in his garden when he saw the hose tangled in a giant knot. In a blink, without thinking, he untangled it mentally. All at once he saw how to make the hose flat and straight. Just as easily, he could retangle it. "I thought, Is this bliss?" he says, the memory still vivid. "And right then I wanted to go inside to the dictionary and look up the definition of bliss."


Shulgin did not immediately recognize that MDMA would change his life - and society. He initially thought it was no more nuanced than gin. After his first experience in the early 1970s - the compound had been buried in reference books since 1912 but never discussed as psychoactive - he described a "mild, pleasant intoxication." It produced "free-flowing feelings" that he likened to "the second martini." Believing he had indeed found a synthetic alternative to alcohol, Shulgin brought it to parties, holding up a little baggie of white powder he called "a low-calorie martini." Testing among his research group, however, revealed the full range of warmth and euphoria of the MDMA high. Less cosmic and more personal than LSD, it evoked in most people feelings of empathy and self-acceptance rather than the sometimes bewildering encounter with infinity that is characteristic of acid. From the perspective of drug-assisted psychotherapy, it would be a safer choice than LSD, which was too strong for the "drug-naive." Arriving on the scene as it did in the drug-tolerant atmosphere of the 1970s, a time when the Carter administration was talking openly about decriminalizing marijuana, MDMA seemed to Shulgin's group to be a drug that could revive the spirited research of the 1950s. They lovingly nicknamed it "empathy" and thought of it as "penicillin for the soul."

Shulgin started sharing his gentle new compound with people outside his research group; one person he gave it to was his friend and famous predecessor, the Austrian scientist Albert Hofmann, who is known for synthesizing LSD in 1938 (Hofmann also wanted to market LSD in low doses as an antidepressant). "They talked about this connection between atomic energy and psychedelic energy," says Doblin, who was present for the session. "They felt that the chemicals were an antidote - through the development of consciousness - to handle the destructive energies." After hours of this kind of conversation, Shulgin asked Hofmann what he thought of MDMA. Hofmann replied, "Finally, something I can do with mv wife."

By the late '1970s, a time of promise for the true believers, Shulgin's establishment credentials were impeccable. He appeared at drug criminals' trials and gave expert testimony for the prosecution. He didn't mind helping the government put amphetamine or cocaine dealers in jail. Those drugs were "false in some way," he says. "The sense of power they give is not real." They were only marginally better than marijuana - in his opinion "a complete waste of time."

He was also a lecturer at Berkeley, a consultant to the DEA and a member of the Bohemian Club, one of America's most elite organizations. Every Republican president since Calvin Coolidge along with America's top CEOs and media moguls has been a member of the all-male fraternity, which meets once a year for a secretive two-week bacchanal in the California redwoods. "Sasha is very intentional about his friendships," says Doblin. "He has tripped out with those captains of industry. So if you want to know why he got raided and not arrested, I think that's the answer."

Shulgin staked his reputation on ecstasy, seeding it in a community of New Age and Jungian analysts on the West Coast while recruiting highly placed professionals he hoped would testify for it when the inevitable confrontation with the government came. By the early 1980s an estimated 1,000 therapists were doing five-hour MDMA sessions with their patients.

Then, a hippie nightclub owner in Texas broke ranks and began selling it. He renamed MDMA ecstasy, beginning the rebranding that led to a giant criminal market for Shulgin's drug. "Yeah, the first dealers came right out of the movement. They were a breakaway branch," Doblin says. "But it could have been worse. We actually talked them out of marketing 2CB, another Sasha invention, which is much stronger and more psychedelic and really would not have been right for people to be taking in nightclubs."

By the time the government announced plans to add ecstasy to the Controlled Substances Act, Shulgin and his circle were confident that they had laid the groundwork to keep it in the hands of doctors. "We were optimistic," recalls Doblin. "It wasn't as strong as LSD, so the abuse profile was better, and here you had this record of its being used in a therapeutic context." On August 24, 1984 Shulgin wrote to his old friends at the DEA to say that MDMA, because of its "medical utility," ought to be placed under the less restrictive Schedule III, so that research could continue and doctors could be permitted to prescribe it. "I have been in direct communication with perhaps a score of physicians who have become sufficiently impressed with the value and safety of MDMA to have built much of their psychiatric practice about its use," he wrote.

After hearings that lasted two years and included mountains of testimony, the DEA s chief administrative judge, Justice Francis Young, agreed that MDMA should be placed under Schedule III. But a month later the head of the DEA, John Lawn, a Reagan appointee, overruled his own judge and placed ecstasy under Schedule I. "It was the first clandestinely manufactured designer drug that got itself a lawyer and gathered so-called experts on the subject," a DEA official later said.

Dr. Grinspoon, the Harvard drug historian, won a case against the DEA in federal court on the grounds that the administrator had improperly ignored MDMA's medical potential. But Lawn rescheduled it under a new rationale, and this time the ban held. In 1986 Congress passed the Analog Act, which outlawed newly created drugs if they resembled the chemical structure of a scheduled drug. Two years later Shulgin tried to firm up his establishment credentials. He wrote Controlled Substances: A Chemical and Legal Guide to Federal Drug Laws, which became a standard reference for DEA officials. The book was too late, however, and Shulgin paid a heavy professional price for his advocacy. As ecstasy spread to raves and the headlines carried stories of drug overdoses, Shulgin's reputation plummeted. The DEA blacklisted him with chemical supply houses. "They can do that quite easily," he says. In the late 1980s Shulgin found that his papers were no longer being accepted for publication. "The journals started getting cold feet," says Ann. "There was this reluctance to continue to publish Sasha's work. I don't think anything was turned down, but little notes came from their lawyers saying, 'We don't know if we can keep on.' Deep down, the DEA wants us dead."

Cocooned in their Contra Costa hideaway as ecstasy burned through the national consciousness, Sasha began to see a future in which the knowledge of his other beloved molecules' existence died with him. In 1991 he decided his only option was to self-publish. "The only reason we published PIHKAL," says Ann, "is that the journals were unavailable." After self publishing the book, with its recipes for making psychedelics, he sent it out with a cover letter to his friends in the DEA. "This might interest you," he wrote. It did. Three years later the government reached out from Washington and raided his house. What followed were allegations that Shulgin had violated the technical terms of his license, a case he settled by paying a $25,000 fine - and surrendering his license.

Dr. Grob of UCLA, a supporter, says, "When MDMA was scheduled, it really crushed Sasha. I don't think he's ever recovered from the humiliation."


Come afternoon, it is still sauna-hot in the hills, and the Shulgins are sitting on the patio, making the most of a pathetic breeze. On occasions like these, Shulgin is not without his black moods. "The association with mental health has not been particularly useful or fruitful," he admits, with sadness in his voice. He'll let you know in so many words that he - like the DEA - understands that when drugs react with the general public, chaos can ensue. "Most people who take psychedelics just want to have a fun Saturday night," he says. "They wouldn't dream of getting anything more than that." At one point he dismisses his life's work to me as making "baubles to put on the mantelpiece."

I want to know what the Shulgins think about MDMA's transformation into ecstasy and its devolution from medicine to club drug. Ann replies with a sigh, "Everybody asks about MDMA. It's really become quite annoying, actually, because, you know, for us ecstasy is sort of old news." After a few minutes I manage to ask Shulgin if he has anything to add. His normally cheerful visage darkens, and he retreats for a moment into silence. "It was very sad," he says at last, "very bitter." Then he turns back to me and smiles wearily. He is getting tired, he says, and politely excuses himself from the table.

Exiled by his government, shunned by the medical establishment and working alone in primitive conditions, Shulgin has never idled his scientific curiosity, nor has he given up hope. In 1992, two years before the DEA raid, there was another effort to see ecstasy rescheduled so that research could continue. At a review convened by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, expert witnesses testified that not enough was known about the compound's toxicity to justify clinical trials. Shulgin rose to speak. In his warm, kindly voice he corrected them, noting that, in fact, human trials had been conducted by the Alexander Shulgin Research Institute. He added that these trials had produced very satisfactory results, which he would happily make available to anyone. "Basically what he was saying was that he had illegally conducted this research and here was the result," says Doblin. "It was incredibly brave, and it totally changed the tenor of the meeting."

Shulgin did not wait for the government to reconsider; in 1997 he and Ann published their second volume, TIHKAL: The Continuation, which lists more than a hundred new compounds that he had discovered and analyzed. He plans to publish again in the near future. Already, his last-ditch attempt is showing signs of having been ahead of its time. The most vocal critic of ecstasy, Dr. George Ricaurte, a Johns Hopkins scientist, has recently come under heavy fire for shoddy science. His studies, purporting to show that a single dose of ecstasy can burn a hole in brain tissue, are being repudiated as deeply flawed. At the same time, the FDA has approved clinical trials to administer ecstasy to post-traumatic stress disorder patients who are coping with anxiety.

For his part, Shulgin is no longer calling his compounds psychedelics. His latest molecules are better described as antidepressants, he says, and he has nothing left to do but continue to develop them.

Well after midnight on a recent evening, he gets into his Geo and drives down the mountain roads, past the Berkeley campus and over the bridge and the dark bay to a hospital near San Francisco. He is not thinking about ecstasy or any of the other drugs that have passed through his life and his body. As the world still grapples with his previous inventions, he forges forward. In the predawn hours, when the sky is lightening to pink and the hospital's halls echo with his footsteps, Shulgin slips into a high-tech lab - he is friends, of course, with the doctor in charge. As always, he works by himself, surrounded by his potions and powders. And sometimes, when he's lost in the bliss of creation, he'll feel the atoms like living beings. Sure, it's just carbon, hydrogen, matter and electricity, but it's everything - everything - to a chemist alone in a laboratory at five A.M. willing to be awed.
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