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Making Madness Before America

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  • 1. MAKING MADNESS BEFORE AMERICA: Saint Peter‟s Snow, „psychotomimetics,‟ and the German Experimental Imaginary Above: A 1920s Chris Rudge illustration of Ergot fungi, including the Department of English clavicepspurpurea(Fr.) group, growing on rye Biopolitics of Science Research Network leaves and wheat. University of Sydney chris@rudge.tv www.rudge.tv Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 1 UNIVERSITY
  • 2. ―PSYCHOTOMIMETICS‖: A short post-history  Literally, ―psychosis-mimicking‖; ―psychoto-‖ from psychosis, and ―-mimetic‖ from the Greek μ meaning ―in imitation of.‖ ο κ τ η ις  The ‗model psychosis‘ or psychotomimeticconceptualisation of certain drug experiences was proposed as early as the 1920s by Kurt Beringer. – (More on this anon.)  1957: Working with schizophrenic patients in Saskatchewan Mental Hospital (Canada), Humphry Osmond moves away from the Above: Humphry Osmond ‗pychotomimetic‘/model psychosis paradigm at Saskatchewan Mental and augurs a turn toward the ‗psychedelic‘ Hospital in 1951. (literally ‗mind-manifesting‘) and entheogenic From Erika Dyck,Psychedelic Psychiatry (2008, John Hopkins (‗generational of the divine within‘) University Press). conceptualisation of these compounds. „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 2 UNIVERSITY
  • 3. THE NAMING GAME“To make this mundane world sublime Just half a gram of of —Aldous Huxley PHANEROTHYME” to Humphry Osmond Sep-Oct, 1956 ~ “To fall in Hell or soar Angelic You‟ll need a pinch of PSYCHEDELIC” —Humphry Osmond to Aldous Huxley Oct-Nov, 1956 Aldous Huxley (1955): a speculative intellectual „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 3 UNIVERSITY
  • 4. Saint Peter‟s Snow by LEO PERUTZ Perutz, an Austrian Jew, published his book in 1933 Promptly after this first edition was published, it was banned (or ‗boycotted‘) by the Nazi Government The novel tells the story of Dr Amberg, a physician with good chemistry Leo Perutz: knowledge, who discovers the plan of historical fantasist ‗Baron von Minchin‘, a wealthy (1882-1957) German aristocrat: a ―secret experiment to make a mind altering drug from a white mildew occurring on wheat‖ (FROM THE 1990 EDITION‘S DUST-JACKET) „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 4 UNIVERSITY
  • 5. Saint Peter‟s Snow by LEO PERUTZ  The wheat-derived ―drug‖ is a literary metonymy for the well-known and historically significant ergot of rye—that is, the clavicepspurpurea(Fr.). —The ergot alkaloid later became part of the the precursor process in the synthesis of LSD; hence LYSERGIC ACID DIETHYLAMIDE.  Perutz‘s novel conveys the folkloric belief that ‗Saint Peter‘s snow‘ (and its analogues) was a ‗food of the Gods‘; that is, that ergot was connected to the —— divine, as well as a ‗pharmakon.‟ Above: A (US) English translation of Perutz‘s sixth – This is similar with contemporary views about novel. the ‗entheogenic‘ nature of (ergot-based and Translated by Eric Mosbacher and published by Arcade Publishing, 1990. other) hallucinogens. „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 5 UNIVERSITY
  • 6. MASS-HYSTERIA and the ‗fervour and ecstasy of faith‘ Perutz‘s novel thematises the disease of ergotism (‗ignissacer‟) both as a probably harmful (‗that which may kill‘) malady as well as a potentially stimulating and ecstatic experience (‗that which may cure‘). At one point of the novel, the baron describes the connection between ergot qua „a hallucinogenic drug‘ and religion thus: ―What we call the fervour and ecstasy of faith … whether as an individual phenomenon or as a group ___ phenomenon, nearly always presents the clinical A fantastic depiction of the picture of a state of excitation produced by a infliction of ergotism (a.k.a ‗St. Anthony‘s fire‘) hallucinogenic drug. But what … drug produces this effect? None is known to science.‖ The novel functions as a prescient work of speculative (science) fiction, speculating on the potential that foods and chemicals have to transform and to produce new political ICTORIA „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—V and8 September 2012 6 religious ideologies. UNIVERSITY
  • 7. The parallel teleologies of ERGOTISMand JEWISH MYSTICISM  Seemingly, the occurrences of ignissacerhaave been coincidental with the emergence of a number of significant Jewsih mystical traditions.  The popularity and demand of these traditions, and their writings (such as the popularity of the___ Zohar, one of the first Hebrew ―best-sellers‖)Packer argues that Jewish may well have been influenced by the ergot-mystical texts such as The based stimulations experienced by theZoharcontain many possiblereferences to the spread of ergot: surrounding populations.for example, ―holy history … isguided by the hand of G*d .. Whomakes the wind blow and the rain – SHARON PACKER: ―The … existence of such a pro-fall.‖ Similiarly ―ergot spores arespread by wind and grow with mystical milieu would establish the psychologicalrain.‖ expectations that are so critical to sculpting theS Packer, ‗Jewish Mystical Movements and exact phenomenology of the ergot experience.‖the Euro. Ergot Epidemics,‘ Isr. Jrnl. OfPsychiatry and Rltd. Sciences, 1998. „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 7 UNIVERSITY
  • 8. Willis Harmann‘s curious claim Willis Harmann, the late academic and social scientist at the Stanford Institute (SRI International) of Stanford University, claimed in 1 the late 1970s that the discovery of LSD was planned by a certain ―group of followers‖ of Rudolf Steiner. Harmann‘s claim—like Perutz‘s novel—seems to be an embellished fiction that is nonetheless connected with real events in history. Harmanns timeline of the events approximately 2 lines-up with the actual discovery dates of LSD; this suggests that Harmann‘s claim might in fact be a claim about those who were involved in the original synthesis of this semi-synthetic ergolinealkaloid: namely Arthur Stoll and Albert Hoffman at Sandoz Laboratories (Basel, ___ 3 Switzerland). Hoffman3Arthur Stoll 1 Willis Harmann2Albert „Tonics, Elixirs Poisons‟—VICTORIA8 September 2012 8 UNIVERSITY

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