Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cogito ergot nil cogito

Albert Hofmann, the man who discovered and refined synthetic ergot poison into LSD, is dead.

The psychedelic drug/ entheogen LSD was first synthesized by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in the Sandoz (now Novartis) laboratories in Basel, Switzerland in 1938. It was not until 5 years later on April 16, 1943, that the psychedelic properties were discovered.

LSD was first synthesised in 1938 by Dr. Alfred Hoffman, a Chemist in the pharmacological department in Sandoz Laboratories, Basel, Switzerland. It was initially developed while he was studying derivatives of lysergic acid, systematically reacting the carboxylic acid group with various reagents, to produce the corresponding amides, anhydrides, esters, etc. The reaction of diethylamine with this group produced what was then named LSD-25, however no real benefits of the compound were found and its study was discontinued.

Interest in the drug resumed 5 years later when Dr Hoffman synthesised LSD-25 again so that a sample could be given to the pharmocological department for further testing, when it was thought to be a potential treatment for schizophrenia. Although initial observations on the benefits were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved much less promising.

Although LSD is relatively non-toxic and non-addictive, various governments around the world outlawed it after a number of fatal accidents were reported. Such accidents involved, for example, people under the influence of LSD jumping to their deaths off buildings believing they could fly. Research in the 1960's and 70's showed that there was also a considerable psychological risk with the drug and that high doses, especially in inappropriate settings, often caused panic reactions. Scientific study finally ceased around mid 1970's as research funding declined, due to political reasons.

We write here and at Covenant Zone about the perils of Historical Determinism. We look askance at the end of history eschatologies of Gnostic visionaries who really have no idea what goes on around them even in their personal lives, let alone how history will progress. Hofmann provides a good example of finding the unknowable after the fact, his a world-changing event so mundane in its origins that no one short of God and social science undergrad.s could have foreseen it, nor know its impact on daily living and history. We cannot know the future like the Gnostic hippies would have it known or be believed knowable. History unfolds, teleologically, to me, in the way an acorn becomes its potential oak tree and not a non-potential carrot; but beyond that, very hard to know anything. In that light, one is better to hold off on what Truepeers refers to as apocalyptic visions that alienate the Muslim world. We cannot know if they will or if they won't come to some accommodation with Modernity until we find they haven't. Maybe some world-historic event is tomorrow, and if we wait for it to come things will be significantly different for us all. Maybe even now there is some great thing in a lab waiting to be known. Maybe maybe.

Ignus Sacer.

Thanks to Maccusgermanis there is now this link below to St Anthony' Fire, and much more.There is in the archives some reference to Berserkers and to Erna Paris, End of Days, both of which deal to an extent with ergot poisoning. When time allows I intend to reread Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. If anyone has input, please feel free.


CGW said...

So sorry for you, Dag. My condolences.

BTW, muslims will perish and burn.

Dag said...

Phew, I was afraid all the comments by the dozens would be in complain of my Latin. I had a good excuse though: "Too much acid in the 60s, man."

maccusgermanis said...

I agree completely. Ignis sacer, and historical use, by Native Americans, of the lysergic acid amide, found in morning glories, should never make us think that future compounds derived from ergot, or other lysercic acid sources, are likely to produce psychotropic effects.

Perhaps we can even learn how to reinterpret the sun's rays, so that we photosythisize our own LSD. Or maybe in 1400 years time LSD will finally be safe for children to play with.

Gee, not knowing is fun, and if anyone later says they told us so, then off with their heads.