The Secret Chief - Foreword by Albert Hofmann

Table of Contents | Prologue | Tribute | Foreword | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements


HARDLY ANY OTHER SCIENCE is as conservative and tradition-bound as is medicine. Whenever a new treatment modality or an extraordinary medicine appears, in addition to interested acceptance in specialist circles there is also opposition to the novelty, which is emotional and vehement, in proportion as the innovation is significant and pioneering. Hypnosis may be cited as an example. It was denounced as dangerous charlatanism, and more than a century had to pass before it gained entry into mainstream medicine.

Today a novel group of psychoactive substances, which have come to be known under various designations - hallucinogens, psychotomimetics, psychedelics and recently entheogens - has evoked violent controversy in professional circles and the media. These are substances capable of profoundly affecting human consciousness. This explains the vehemence and the passion which accompany discussions of the 'psychedelics,' as these materials are mostly known today, since we are talking about the veritable inner core of our humanity, our consciousness.

On the other hand, one would imagine that the psychedelics might have gained especially easy entry into medicinal practice, since we are dealing here with active principles of drugs which for millennia have played a meaningful role in archaic cultures and which even today among primigenial peoples find beneficent application in social and medicinal fields. Had we from the outset harked back to these archaic experiences, we would have been able to avoid the misuse and improper use of these extremely potent psychopharmaceuticals, and they would not now be prohibited, but would rather have become valuable medicines in the contemporary pharmacopoeia. The substances under discussion are above all mescaline, the active agent of a Mexican cactus which the Indians call péyotl or peyote; psilocybin, the active principle of the Mexican 'magic mushrooms' teonanácatl; and LSD (chemically Lysergsäure diäthylamid or lysergic acid diethylamide), which is closely related to lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide, the active agent of the ancient Indian 'magic drug' ololiuhqui.

All of these drugs are integrated into tribal cultures and employed as 'magic medicines' in a religious - ceremonial context. Their use is in the hands of shamans or shamanesses, male or female priest-doctors, where they manifest a beneficent action. They are esteemed as sacred, and according to Indian belief, their misuse or profanation is punished by the gods with insanity or death. International research with these substances - especially in psychiatry, to investigate their use as pharmacological adjuncts to psychoanalysis and psychotherapy - commenced shortly after the 1943 discovery of LSD, which is by far the most potent representative of the psychedelics. Besides the greatest enthusiasm in response to outstanding results with LSD and other psychedelics, scepticism also manifested itself in conservative circles, particularly those in which any pharmacological intervention in the treatment process was rejected.

This very promising use of psychedelics in psychiatry and psychology came to an untimely end midway through the sixties, when this new class of pharmaceuticals was outlawed, with the complete prohibition of their manufacture, possession and use. Accidents involving psychedelics resulting from frivolous, uncontrolled use in the drug scene were the ostensible reason for this prohibition. The principal reason for the draconian prohibitive measures, however, was the goal of attacking the youth movement, hippies and the like, who opposed the Establishment and the Vietnam War, and whose 'cult-drug' was, above all, LSD.

Medicinal use of the psychedelics was prevented by the official prohibition, and further research in this field was interrupted, while consumption continued in the drug scene. This irrational situation still largely exists today. For therapists, the use of psychedelics became a criminal matter, for which they could face punishment. One of the probably very few therapists who continued to use psychedelics, accepting the great risk of criminality, was the psychologist here referred to by the alias 'Jacob' and dubbed the 'Secret Chief.' [Editor's note: Terence McKenna coined this nickname].

Jacob had obtained mostly excellent results from his specially-developed techniques in the use of psychedelics, and he realized that this therapeutic method should not be withheld from sick people. His ethical obligation as a therapist, to help people, took priority for him over obedience to a dubious official prohibition.

In the illegality of his time it was unthinkable to publish the excellent results of his therapy. It is therefore praiseworthy that today, nine years after his death, a friend has undertaken the task of publishing the details of the therapeutic methodology of this intrepid Ph.D. psychologist. The therapeutic results attained from this method constitute an important argument in the current growing discussion challenging medical circles, whether again to liberate psychedelics for psychotherapeutic practice.

Albert Hofmann, Ph.D.
Rittimatte, Switzerland

Translation from German by Jonathan Ott

Table of Contents | Prologue | Tribute | Foreword | Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3
Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Epilogue | Appendix I | Appendix II | Acknowledgements