One of the most fascinating videos you’re likely to see today, commercially filmed and CIA-funded, a truly remarkable case of a psychedelic encounter between two cultures, the scientific and the experiential.
Now we must begin with a confession that we experimented with LSD starting on New Year’s Eve 1966, in the final hours before the drug became illegal in Nevada. The drug was given us by a fellow journalist at a faculty party of folks of a politically dissident bent. We took it, looking for insights about ourself and the world we lived in.
Over the new few years we got to interview most of the world’s leading academic researchers on psychedelic ["mind-manifesting"] drugs, many of whom we subsequently learned. had been CIA funded. We also got to spend extended time with several while we were covering conferences as an associate editor of Psychology Today magazine.
In this video you’ll see what happens when a Los Angeles painter is given LSD in the setting of a CIA-funded experiment: There’s the artist, reveling in the flow and content of spontaneous sensations heightened and empowered by the chemical, and then there’s is the academic, intent on dissecting and altering the experience in order to fulfill the therms of his CIA-funded contract:
Schizophrenic Model Psychosis Induced by LSD 25 [1955, 23:57]
Narrated by Nicholas A. Bercel, M.D., of the University of Southern California Medical School’s Department of Physiology.
Bercel’s 20 August 2009 Los Angeles Times obituary reveals a fascinating background. A native of Budapest trained in medicine at the Sorbonne by Marie Curie, he came to the U.S. in 1940. He joined the USC faculty in the early 1950s, wrote novels, and practiced medicine until age 92. He was 97 when he died.
The film’s a production of Confidential Telepictures Inc, and the drug was made by Swiss pharmaceutical giant Sandoz, with the involvement of Harry Althouse of San Francisco. Althouse, on the marketing side of the company, even had a branding idea. While Sandoz branded the drug Delycid [for D-Lysergic acid diethylamide-25] Althouse had “suggested the pharmacological designation Phantastium for this substance.”
Althouse also provided LSD to Betty Grover Eisner, a psychotherapist who lost her license because a patient during a very peculiar therapy session conducted in her own bathroom. Mentored by another Althouse beneficiary — Sidney Cohen, UCLA psychiatrist who’d done some of the earliest CIA-funded experiments — Eisner went on to found a group practice that involved a whole range of mind-alerting drugs, communal living, often-mandatory sexual experimentation, and much more. Her clientele included world-famous academics, a leading jazz musician, doctors, lawyers [even one who worked for the IRS] and more. It’s a fascinating story, told in our second book, Deadly Blessings, Faith Healing on Trial.