Happy Bicycle Day! April 19 brings the occasion to celebrate Dr. Albert Hofmann’s discovery of the recipe for lysergic acid diethylamide and his psychedelic bike ride home while blazing on the world’s first intentional acid trip.
Out of this discovery, there have grown essentially two schools of Psychedelia. There is the scientific orthodoxy of Harvard professors Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Das), Stanislav Grof and Thomas Roberts. And then there is the Rock’n’Roll ecstasy of Owsley Stanley, Ken Kesey, Hunter S. Thompson and the Haight-Ashbury scene.
It seems most vital yet futile to celebrate such a historic affirmation of human potential and life itself; to keep from getting tired of all the death during this covid year. But paradox would seem a natural fit for a celebration of psychedelia. At a certain point in almost anyone’s life, if we are lucky, the chase of mortality becomes relentless and ultimately exhausting. Ideas about the cycle of life are cold comfort during a pandemic, whether from covid or not. The older we get, the faster and more furious it comes, mocking all the birds and buds of springtime.
Of course, LSD, human potential, bike stuff, and even life itself are not for the squeamish. So, the best way to celebrate is to ride a fucking bike, on acid or not. Get that oxygen into your blood stream, get that buzz in your muscles and clear your head.
In 1985, Professor Thomas B. Roberts of Northern Illinois University initiated the effort to spread the idea for a holiday to mark Albert Hofmann’s discovery of LSD, ultimately deciding on April 19, the date when Hofmann first experimented with LSD.
I am pleased and proud to say that this is literally my turf, having graduated from NIU in 1984. I had even taken Dr. Roberts’ transpersonal psychology class in my freshman year way back when at the urging of my friend Alex, a psych major living down the hall in our dorm. While I was quickly intimidated by the course syllabus enough to drop the class, Alex and I and a few other friends indulged our curiosities about Dr. Hofmann’s invention. While Roberts went on to found the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, the Council on Spiritual Practices, and the International Transpersonal Association, our little tribe went on to feed our heads and go crashing around the cosmos to loud music and questionable life choices in the tradition of Rock’n’Roll ecstasy.
Whether because or in spite of subsequent experiences in human piles that took the shape of dozens upon dozens of pagan gatherings and Grateful Dead shows, I still cannot wrap my head around any real understanding of “spirituality.” But many zany misadventures in psychedelic exploration have most definitely expanded my consciousness, my sense of humor and, I like to believe, my patience.
Dr. Albert Hofmann was probably not a nazi. But, with only the least diligent of Google research, I remain unable or unwilling to confirm or debunk with any real certainty; while the same lack of confirmation goes regarding any resistance activity. But this much we do know: Hofmann worked at Sandoz labs in the city of Basel in neutral Switzerland in nazi-occupied “Fortress Europe,” and after ingesting a healthy dose of LSD on April 19, 1943, he left work early for a free but terrifying psychedelic bike ride home.