‘Pneumadelic’? Osmond, 1957: “my own preference being ‘psychelytic’, or ‘psychedelic’ ” /3 (2021)

“There is one golden rule that should be applied in working with model psychoses. One should start with oneself.”

by Federico Soldani – 15th June 2021

In the previous two articles in this series, on Dr. Osmond’s paper “A review of the clinical effects of psychotomimetic agents” (1957) in which the British psychiatrist working in North America first proposed the name ‘psychedelic’: [1] the name ‘pneumadelic’ was proposed – based on Voegelin’s view of Gnosticism – and [2] the broad political meaning of the use of hallucinogens, as outlined by Osmond himself, was reviewed.

The word “politics” was mentioned three times in Osmond’s paper, while there were numerous other references to the sphere of the polis and beyond.

This last article in a series of three about the paper in which the word ‘psychedelic’ was first proposed in 1957 is organized according to the titles there were used in the original paper to divide it into paragraphs or sections. It presents and discusses several remaining issues not yet included in the previous two articles. Occasionally, such as for Aurelio or Ugo Cerletti, an additional section is included as well as an introductory part is present about the paradox of experience over logos in discussing hallucinogens or psychotomymetics.


The paradox of experience over logos

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung and his psychotherapy were mentioned four times in the text of Osmond 1957 paper, in a positive manner – contrary to comments about the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud and his views and followers, for instance, mentioned an equal number of times – and two times in the bibliography, including a “personal communication” by C. G. Jung.

“Nearly everyone who works with psychotomimetics and allied compounds agrees there is something special about them. Such words as “unforgettable” and “indescribable” abound in the literature,” Osmond wrote. The following are eight points in the paper in which Osmond discussed the need to to use psychotomimetic or hallucinogenic substances in order to be able to talk validly about them (bold, other emphasis and links added):

[1] “There is one golden rule that should be applied in working with model psychoses. One should start with oneself. Unless this is done, one cannot expect to make sense of someone else’s communications and, consequently, the value of the work is greatly reduced. Stefaniuk told me how much his attitude changed after he had himself taken LSD during the course of a series of experiments. I am still unsure in what way patients should participate in these investigations. Rinkel has observed that mentally ill patients can be made worse by LSD.”

[2] “Let me emphasize again that those who have not themselves taken the particular substance with which they wish to work, preferably several times, would be wise not to use these agents in therapy. Possibly no one has done this, but no paper that I have read has made it the essential precondition for such work.”

Osmond highlighted the “extraordinary possibilities available to the therapist who has himself endured these experiences.”

[3]Such a journey of self-discovery may one day be obligatory for those working in psychiatry. Although it might not always be pleasant, with care and understanding this experience would be very useful to the trainee.”

[4]Working with these substances, as in psychoanalysis, we must often be our own instruments.”

[5] “For the social psychologist there are group studies springing from observations already made with peyote takers. We have made tentative explorations of the experiences of group use of LSD-25. The effects are strange and impressive. We seem to have almost no language suitable for communicating them. It is as if new dimensions of human relationship are revealed. Such work can be done only by those who are used to these substances.”

[6] “Accounts of the effect of these agents, ranging in time from that of Havelock Ellis in 1897 to the more recent reports of Aldous Huxley, are many, and they emphasize the unique quality of the experience. One or more sensory modalities combined with mood, thinking and, often to a marked degree, empathy, usually change.

Most subjects find the experience valuable, some find it frightening, and many say that it is uniquely lovely. All, from Slotkin’s unsophisticated Indians to men of great learning, agree that much of it is beyond verbal description. Our subjects, who include many who have drunk deep of life, including authors, artists, a junior cabinet minister, scientists, a hero, philosophers, and businessmen, are nearly all in agreement in this respect.

For myself, my experiences with these substances have been the most strange, most awesome, and among the most beautiful things in a varied and fortunate life. These are not escapes from but enlargements, burgeonings of reality. In so far as I can judge they occur in violation of Hughlings Jackson‘s principle, because the brain, although its functioning is impaired, acts more subtly and complexly than when it is normaI. Yet surely, when poisoned, the brain’s actions should be less complex, rather than more so?

I cannot argue about this because one must undergo the experience himself. Those who have had these experiences know, and those who have not had them cannot know and, what is more, the latter are in no position to offer a useful explanation.”

[7] “Is this phenomenon of chemically induced mental aberration something wholly new? It is not, as I have suggested earlier. It has been sought and studied since the earliest times and has played a notable part in the development of religion, art, philosophy, and even science. Systems such as yoga have sprung from it. Enormous effort has been expended to induce these states easily so as to put them to use. Although occasionally trivial and sometimes frightening, their like seems to have been at least part of the experience of visionaries and mystics the world over.

These states deserve thought and pondering because until we understand them no account of the mind can be accurate. It is foolish to expect a single exploration to bring back as much information as 20 of them. It is equally foolish to expect an untrained, inept, or sick person to play the combined part of observer, experiencer, and recorder as well as a trained and skilled individual. Those who have no taste for this work can help by freely admitting their shortcomings rather than disguising them by some imposing ascription.

This may seem mere nonsense but, before closing his mind, the reader should reflect that something unusual ought to seem irrational because it transcends those fashionable ruts of thinking that we dignify by calling them logic and reason.

We prefer such rationalized explanations because they provide an illusory sense of predictability. Little harm is done so long as we do not let our sybaritism blind us to the primacy of experience, especially in psychology.”

[8] There have always been risks in discovery. Splendid rashness such as John Hunter’s should be avoided, yet we must be prepared for calculated risks such as those that Walter Reed and his colleagues took in their conquest of yellow fever.

The mind cannot be explored by proxy. To deepen our understanding, not simply of great madnesses but of the nature of mind itself, we must use our instruments as coolly and boldly as those who force their aircraft through other invisible barriers. Disaster may overtake the most skilled. Today and in the past, for much lesser prizes, men have taken much greater risks.”

The paramount importance attributed by the British psychiatrist Osmond to having tried, and having tried as many times as possible, the substances under discussion, raises an interesting paradox of experience over logos (Ancient Greek for ‘reason’ and ‘word’), previously highlighted in PsyPolitics in 2020 about Viktor Frankl criticism in 1961 of LSD and psilocybin experiments by Timothy Leary and others at Harvard University, sponsored by the Jungian psychologist Henry Murray.

If in order to discuss rationally about these hallucinogenic, psychotomimetic substances one has to use them – in psychiatrist Osmond’s view – as many times as possible, and if these substances disorganize the psyche – in the writings for instance of authors such as Huxley or Evola and of Osmond himself when he proposes to call them generically ‘pschelytic’ – would it be ever in fact possible to discuss rationally about hallucinogens? Or the move to use such substances implies per se – a priori – an abandonment of human rationality?


“The Psychotomymetic Agents”

“There are few substances that, in large enough doses will not produce changes in body and mind resembling some mental illness.” Osmond wrote in his 1957 paper on the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (bold, other emphasis and links added).

Osmond also mentioned the “still-unidentified soma imported from central Asia into India several thousand years ago.” About “soma” he quoted Poisons sacrés – ivresses divines; essai sur quelques formes inférieures de la mystique (1936) by Philippe de Félice, an author we have already encountered in PsyPolitics while discussing hallucinogens nomenclature. This is the same ‘soma’ that was present in the dystopia “Brave New World” (1932) by Osmond’s friend – and almost co-author of the word ‘psychedelic’ – Aldous Leonard Huxley.

In PsyPolitics, it was observed for the first time in 2020 how the epigraph of “Brave New World” was by Russian philosopher Berdyaev, a man who in his writings reported how he was psychiatricized by his acquaintance – Lenin’s co-founder of Bolshevism – psychiatrist Alexander Bogdanov (born Malinovsky): “The most famous novel by Aldous Leonard Huxley is opened with a quote, used as an epigraph, by the man who described how psychiatrist Bogdanov – founder of Bolshevism with Lenin – was treating, surreptitiously, philosophical ideas he disagreed with as a form of mental illness.”

“As I list these treasures of 5000 years of perilous and sometimes fatal searching” – Osmond continued in his 1957 paper – “think upon those nameless discoverers and rediscoverers, Aztec and Assassin, Carib and berserker, Siberian and Red Indian, Brahmin and African, and many others of whose endeavours even scholars do not know. We inherit their secrets and profit by their curiosity, their courage, and even from their errors and excesses. Let us honor them. They do not appear in any list of references.

There are such substances as soma, hashish, cohoba, ololiuqui, peyote, the Syrian rue, the caapi vine, the fungus teonanacatl, the two Amanitas, pantherina and muscaria, the iboga bean, and the fierce virola snuff obtained from a nutmeglike tree in Amazonia.

Who knows what other compounds await the keen inquiries of ethnobotanists such as R. E. Schultes or mycologists such as Gordon Wasson?

With our modern synthetics we are a little safer, though the ground quakes beneath us. These synthetics include mescaline, introduced by Heffter in 1896, the first, I believe, of these agents to be synthesized; harmine or telepathine, an alluring name whose significance I have never understood; Hoffman’s (sic, ed.) astonishing lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), whose great activity has made homeopathy seem less improbable; hashish, whose still-uncertain active principles should surely be ascertained; TMA, synthesized by Scott and his co-workers of Imperial Chemicals Ltd., Manchester, England, a synthetic that lies in an area intermediate between mescaline and amphetamine and has recently been the subject of a report by J. R. Smythies; bufotenin, isolated from cohoba, a West Indian snuff; unstable adrenochrome; and the subtle adrenolutin.

What an array of substances for daring inquiry ! What work for generations to come !


“In What Way Are These Substances Important?”

“The primary interest of these drugs for the psychiatrist lies in their capacity to mimic more or less closely some aspects of grave mental illnesses, particularly of schizophrenia. The fact that medical men have been preoccupied with transient states resembling mental illnesses that have been called model psychoses, however, does not mean that the only use for these compounds is in the study of pathological conditions. This misunderstanding, unless corrected, can deprive us of much knowledge and prevent the growth of new and fascinating researches. Model psychoses allow us to correlate human experience with animal behavior. We can learn how to aggravate and alleviate these model illnesses, and thus we can devise “model therapies” that may later have wider application.

Psychiatrists have found that these agents have a place in psychotherapy. This practice may sound like carrying the idea of “a hair of the dog that bit you” rather far, but it seems to be justified.

Another potentiality of these substances is their use in training and in educating those who work in psychiatry and psychology, especially in understanding strange ways of the mind.

These drugs are of value in exploring the normal mind under unusual circumstances.”


“The Model Psychoses”

About “The Model Psychoses”, Osmond wrote: “Over a century ago B. A. Morel, according to Ellenberger, used hashish to show his students the sort of world that might be endured by some mentally ill people.

According to Osmond, differences in experiences with psychotomimetic or hallucinogenic substances, should consider “obvious variables such as body type, height and weight, or skin and eye color, let alone subtle personality or cultural, social, and biochemical factors that may be very important.”

Osmond quoted experiments by Aurelio Cerletti of Sandoz in using Hoffman’s LSD: “The minute concentration of it required to produce its effect and the fact that, according to Cerletti, most of the drug is excreted from the body within 1 hour while its effects last 12 hours or more is an unsolved mystery. How does the drug continue to act although it is no longer present?

Aurelio Cerletti of Sandoz and later Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Basel in Switzerland, played an important part in the study of the pharmacology of ergot.


Aurelio Cerletti is not to be confused with Ugo Cerletti, a neuropsychiatrist and Professor in Rome, who with Lucio Bini during the 1930s officially invented the electro-shock method for psychoses, a convulsive therapy induced by electrical shocks which was also proposed for “annihilation therapy” – “l’anéantissement” – and is nowadays known as electro-convulsive therapy; both Cerletti (34 times) and Bini (5 times) were nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

It is interesting however to note how, as written in an article in PsyPolitics – Voegelin’s “Science, Politics and Gnosticism” (2020) – “about such resurgence of hallucinogens use, including in medicine, the same rhetoric that was used in psychiatry in the past for electro-convulsive treatment, better known as electro-shock, is now being used for the hallucinogen psilocybin / magic mushrooms: in the rhetoric of their proponents, these interventions would re-set the depressed brain.”


The “father” of LSD, Sandoz chemist Albert Hofmann, in his book ‘LSD. My problem child’ wrote:

“After the discovery of its extraordinary psychic effects, the substance LSD-25, which five years earlier had been excluded from further investigation after the first trials on animals, was again admitted into the series of experimental preparations. Most of the fundamental studies on animals were carried out by Dr. Aurelio Cerletti in the Sandoz pharmacological department, headed by Professor Rothlin.”

Hofmann described how Sandoz, at one point, stopped LSD distribution: “In view of this situation, the management of Sandoz was forced to make a public statement on the LSD problem and to publish accounts of the corresponding measures that had been taken. The pertinent letter, dated 23 August 1965, by Dr. A. Cerletti, at the time director of the Pharmaceutical Department of Sandoz, is reproduced below: “Decision Regarding LSD 25 and Other Hallucinogenic Substances.” The text from Cerletti’s letter followed in Hofmann’s book.

In a note of the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, Aurelio Cerletti’s career was summarized as follows (bold added for emphasis):

“With Prof. Dr. Aurelio Cerletti, one of the most respected research politicians (‘Forschungspolitiker’) in our country became president of the academy. Aurelio Cerletti from Graubünden, Burger von Vals, was born in Ilanz in 1918 and graduated as a doctor of medicine in Basel in 1945, had a steep career as a pharmacologist. After a stay in the USA, he joined the Sandoz company in Basel in 1951 and became a member of the management after just five years. In the years 1956-1968 he was the overall head of medical-biological research, and from 1969-1977 he was head of basic medical research.

In 1966 he became a private lecturer in pharmacology at the Medical Faculty of Basel and three years later Professor. He was a member of the Federal Commission for the Promotion of Scientific Research, Vice-President and President of the Swiss Science Council and President of the Commission for Science and Research of the Swiss Trade and Industry Association. He was a member of the research council of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The spectrum of his knowledge ranged from philosophy to the technical sciences.

From 1972 he was a member of the Senate of the Academy as a representative of the Medical Faculty of Basel, which elected him President in 1980. Aurelio Cerletti is the only President in the Academy’s 50-year history to have held two terms in office. During his presidential tenure, he mainly devoted himself to ethical problems, and medical ethics became the main focus of the academy’s activities. After he was replaced as president, he unfortunately died a few months later on 23 November 1988 at the age of 70.”

Aurelio Cerletti‘s 1956 bibliographic reference in Osmond’s 1957 paper was from “Neuropharmacology: Transactions of the Second Conference” Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, New York. This was, as already mentioned about Gerard’s term ‘psychotomimetic’ in the previous article in this series, the same foundation of the Macy conferences on cybernetics.


“A recent letter from J. Harley Mason of Cambridge University, England” – Osmond continued in his 1957 paper – “states that the causes of these difficulties are not yet clear. I hope that this will be a challenge to organic chemists to sort out and classify these indolic derivatives of adrenalin whose very instability makes them excellent prospects for use as natural psychotomimetic agents. The changes that they induce, although sometimes very striking, are more subtle and less florid than those induced by mescaline or LSD. Consequently, these changes are harder to detect, delineate, and measure and, for persons who are used to mescaline and LSD, they may seem very small.

We are trying, however, to reproduce a cross section of an illness that is insidious, that seeps into its victim over a period of weeks and months, so that these characteristics that make the experiment so difficult to perform are perhaps encouraging. The more our psychotomimetics resemble the hypothetical endotoxin that Carl Jung called toxin-X and that we have called M (mescalinelike) substance, the harder they will be to test and the more attention they will require in experimental design.”

“There are other difficulties, such as finding regular supplies of a particular agent, uncertainties about the proper route for administration, individual differences in absorption and susceptibility, the dearth of subjects skilled in self observation, and the effects of placebo on both the observer and the observed. Before all this comes the task of designing testing schedules to measure and correlate physiological, electrophysiological, biochemical, psychological, and social changes, and then the task of relating these changes to a naturally occurring illness – schizophrenia.”

“It has long been known that hashish and dhatura make a very deadly mixture that may well enhance endogenous psychotomimetics.”

“With so many possible factors to take into consideration, much patient investigation is needed, and one suspects that many unexpected changes in perception would escape notice simply because they cover so many fields. Do such changes actually occur? I do not know. I do know, however, that the only occasion on which I have ever been unable to relate time to distance was after taking adrenochrome. The reaction made it impossible to drive a car, and it even made being driven very unpleasant. I wonder what it would have been like trying to land a jet plane?”


“Uses in Psychotherapy”

“I have read Sandison’s, Abramson’s, and Frederking’s accounts of the use of LSD-25 and mescaline in psychotherapy, but I have not been able to see the reports of Busch and Johnson.”

“Abramson, using a modified psychoanalytical approach, gives small doses of LSD-25 in repeated sessions. He aims to resolve early conflicts by abreaction, free association, and re-education.

Sandison gives a varying dose of LSD-25 to chronic neurotic patients in a mental hospital. He uses the experience for group discussion and psychotherapy of a Jungian nature.

Frederking whose account is the most sophisticated, compares mescaline and LSD- 25, and he discusses about 200 treatments. He uses psychoanalytical methods.

Our work started with the idea that a single overwhelming experience might be beneficial to alcoholics, the idea springing from James (‘The Varieties of Religious Experience, ed.) and Tiebout (‘Ego factors in surrender in alcoholism’, ed.). Thus far it seems that a high dose may be valuable, but that repeated treatment is necessary. At this stage of our investigations we have not yet observed enough patients to be able to give any hard and fast rules as to prescribing these drugs.

Hubbard, whose large unpublished series of cases has been most kindly placed at my disposal, has treated a number of gravely ill alcoholics. All seem benefited to some extent, and a number of them to a degree that the patients themselves consider miraculous. Looking over the records it is hard not to agree with the appraisal these patients gave of themselves.

All new therapies enjoy an early period of high success, so that cautious optimism seems to be our wisest attitude, yet there are exciting, indeed, extraordinary possibilities available to the therapist who has himself endured these experiences.


“Psychotomimetics and Training”

I know of no study dealing specifically with the application of these substances to the training of the workers engaged in many different disciplines who work together in psychiatry.

Such training has resulted from experimental work, but only incidentally.

Hyde and others have used these substances to enlarge the sympathy of members of a psychiatric staff for patients in their care.


“The Model Therapies and the Reverse”

Schueler seems to have been the founder of model therapies when, in 1934, he gave some of his mescalinized medical students sodium succinate by vein.”

Elkes found that both chlorpromazine and sodium amytal antagonised LSD.”

Hyde, during the course of some elegant work, discovered that a social setting that is protective and nutritive results in a reduction of paranoid tendencies and perceptual changes.” […] “It is said that schizophrenia and diabetes rarely occur together. This may be a lead worth following.” […] “Hyde found that cold and, particularly, inquisitorial attitudes increase perceptual disorders and paranoid trends.”

“The effect of dhatura on hashish has been known for many years in India, and is said to have been used by professional robbers in that country to produce temporary madness in their victims.”

“Smythies, using a stroboscope and, latterly, a variable-speed shutter, finds that this enhances some aspects of the mescaline model. I have mentioned earlier in this paper that some people who have had infective hepatitis many years previously endure greatly prolonged responses to mescaline and adrenochrome. I should like to see these models combined with a reduced or specialized environment. We also need to know within what limits hypnosis can eliminate, aggravate, and facilitate these psychic changes.”


“Psychotomimetic Agents and Psychology”

Heinrich Klüver (“a member of the ‘core group’ of cybernetics pioneers that participated in the Macy Conferences of the 1940s and 1950s”, ed.) pioneered so many trails that it will be no surprise to discover that nearly 30 years ago he was emphasizing the importance of mescaline to psychology in an admirable book (‘Mescal: The Divine Plant and Its Psychological Effects’, ed.) now unhappily out of print.

The advances in our understanding of the hallucinatory, the illusional, and the delusional that Klüver considered could be made by studying the effects of mescaline and similar experiences are, for the most part, still undone. During an experiment with adrenochrome I found myself an “it,” a thing. The sensation was not one of unreality. It might be called “depersonalization,” but I am not sure that a great variety of self-perceptions is not subsumed under that label. Only comparison and careful classification will tell us.

Let us consider empathy, that feeling for, in, or with other creatures or even things that seems to be so poorly described in psychological texts. Yet when it is lacking to any great degree something essentially human is lost. Empathy, I know, can increase until one is “involved in mankinde,” something that most of us feel only when deeply in love.

Saints have had such experience sustained for a lifetime, but for the rest of us a few moments of it are ever remembered as supreme exaltation. When members of the Native American Church, peyote takers, say that in their meetings this happens frequently, I believe them. It may seem unlikely that the usually insensitive can become acutely and exquisitely aware of the feelings of others, but they can do so.

The development of synesthesia, that strange fusing of 2 or more sensory modalities, has received some attention, but we know little about minor degrees of this sort of perception and the problems of communicating them.

How might this affect schizophrenics? Bleuler (Manfred, Swiss psychiatrist, son of Eugene Bleuler, who coined among several other important words in the field the term ‘schizophrenia’, ed.) in an account of the existentialist psychotherapy gives a hint of the possibilities here.”


“Other Inquiries Arising from This Work”

“We also need a means of temporarily enhancing the effect of psychotomimetics so that while avoiding a model psychosis we can nevertheless spot their presence in the volunteer. Smythies, using the stroboscope, has given us a valuable clue here, and he is following this lead at Cambridge University, Cambridge, England.

If we are to succeed, close cooperation between many varied disciplines will be necessary. I hope that foundations, governments, and large firms will keep this thought continually in mind. Let us encourage people from distant and often hostile groups to meet, talk, and listen together. Let us lure them into making those essential friendships. The attempt will be worth it.


“The Exploration of Experience”

“In the perspective of history, our psychiatric and pathological bias is the unusual one.

By means of a variety of techniques, from dervish dancing to prayerful contemplation, from solitary confinement in darkness to sniffing the carbonated air at the Delphic oracle, from chewing peyote to prolonged starvation, men have pursued, down the centuries, certain experiences that they considered valuable above all others.

The great William James (considered a “father” figure of American psychology, ed.) endured much uncalled-for criticism for suggesting that in some people inhalations of nitrous oxide allowed a psychic disposition that is always potentially present to manifest itself briefly. Has our comparative neglect of these experiences, recognized by James and Bergson as being of great value, rendered psychology stale and savorless? Our preoccupation with behavior, because it is measurable, has led us to assume that what can be measured must be valuable, and vice versa. During the 20th century we have seen, except for a few notables such as Carl Jung, an abandoning of the psyche by psychologists and psychiatrists. Recently they have been joined by certain philosophers.

Pavlov, Binet (born Binetti, ed.), Freud, and a host of distinguished followers legitimately limited the field to fit their requirements, but later expanded their formulations from a limited inquiry to embrace the whole of existence. An emphasis on the measurable and the reductive has resulted in the limitation of interest by psychiatrists and psychologists to aspects of experience that fit in with this concept.

There was and is another stream of psychological thought in Europe and in the United States that is more suitable for the work that I shall discuss next. James, in the United States, Sedgwick, Myers, and Gurney in Britain, and Carl Jung in Switzerland are among its great figures. Bergson is its philosopher and Harrison its prophet (‘The Transcendental Universe : Six Lectures on Occult Science, Theosophy, and the Catholic Faith : delivered before the Berean Society’, according to WorldCat.org 21 editions published between 1894 and 2002, ed.).

These and many others have said that in this work, as in any other, science is applicable if one defines it in Dingle’s term, “the rational ordering of the facts of experience.” We must not fall into the pitfall of supposing that any explanation, however ingenious, can be a substitute for observation and experiment. The experience must be there before the rational ordering.

Work on the potentialities of mescaline and the rest of these agents fell on the stony ground of behaviorism and doctrinaire psychoanalysis. Over the years we have been deluged with explanations, while observation has become less sharp. This will doubtless continue to be the case as long as the observer and the observed do not realize that splendor, terror, wonder, and beauty, far from being the epiphenomena of “objective” happenings, may be of central importance.”


Psychoanalysts claim that their ideas cannot be fully understood without a personal analysis. Not everyone accepts this claim, but can one ever understand something one has never done? A eunuch could write an authoritative book on sexual behavior, but a book on sexual experience by the same author would inspire less confidence. Working with these substances, as in psychoanalysis, we must often be our own instruments. Psychoanalysis resembles Galileo’s telescope, which lets one see a somewhat magnified image of an object the wrong way round and upside down. The telescope changed our whole idea of the solar system and revolutionized navigation. Psychotomimetic agents, whose collective name is still undecided, are more like the radar telescopes now being built to scan the deeps of outer, invisible space.”

Freud has told us much about many important matters. However, I believe that he and his pupils tried illegitimately to extrapolate from his data far beyond their proper limit in an attempt to account for the whole of human endeavor and, beyond this, into the nature of man and God. This was magnificent bravado. It is not science, for it is as vain to use Freud’s system for these greatest questions as it is to search for the galaxies with Galileo’s hand telescope. Jung, using what I consider the very inadequate tools of dream and myth, has shown such skill and dexterity that he has penetrated as deep into these mysteries as his equipment allows. Our newer instruments, employed with skill and reverence, allow us to explore a greater range of experience more intensively.


“How Should We Name Them?”

In the paragraph “How Should We Name Them?,” Osmond reflected on a consideration of health that appears in line with the positive definition of health written in the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization – a specialized agency of the United Nations located in Geneva, Switzerland – in which the main principle in the preamble is “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” As I discussed in 2019 at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London, this principle might look quite good, at a first glance at least, while at the same time not posing a limit to the reach of ‘health’ intended this way, which could end up including any elements of the political sphere.

“If mimicking mental illness were the main characteristic of these agents” – Osmond wrote – “psychotomimetics” would indeed be a suitable generic term. It is true that they do so, but they do much more.

Why are we always preoccupied with the pathological, the negative? Is health only the lack of sickness? Is good merely the absence of evil? Is pathology the only yardstick? Must we ape Freud’s gloomier moods that persuaded him that a happy man is a self-deceiver evading the heartache for which there is no anodyne?”

I have tried to find an appropriate name for the agents under discussion: a name that will include the concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision. Some possibilities are: psychephoric, mind-moving; psychehormic, mind-rousing; and psycheplastic, mind-molding. Psychezymic, mind-fermenting, is indeed appropriate. Psycherhexic, mind bursting forth, though difficult, is memorable.”

“We can perceive ourselves as the stampings of an automatic socioeconomic process; as highly plastic and conditionable animals; as congeries of instinctive strivings ending in loss of sexual drive and death; as cybernetic gadgets; or even as semantic conundrums. All of these concepts have their supporters and they all have some degree of truth in them.

We may also be something more, “a part of the main,” a striving sliver of a creative process, a manifestation of Brahma in Atman, an aspect of an infinite God imminent and transcendent within and without us.”

“Recently I was asked by a senior colleague if this area of investigation lies within the scope of science and, if it does not, should not religion, philosophy, or politics take the responsibility for it? But politics, philosophy, religion, and even art are dancing more and more to the tune of science and, as scientists, it is our responsibility to see that our tune does not become a death march, either physical or spiritual. We cannot evade our responsibilities.”

I believe that the psychedelics provide a chance, perhaps only a slender one, for homo faber, the cunning, ruthless, foolhardy, pleasure-greedy toolmaker to merge into that other creature whose presence we have so rashly presumed, homo sapiens, the wise, the understanding, the compassionate, in whose fourfold vision art, politics, science, and religion are one. Surely we must seize that chance.”



In the summary closing the 1957 paper, Osmond wrote: “After indicating that there are a number of substances at present subsumed as psychotomimetic agents I have indicated that these are not yet clearly defined, and I have suggested that while mimicking psychoses is one aspect of these agents, it is not the only or even the most important one. I have discussed their great antiquity and have shown how they have attracted man since the dawn of history. Since many drugs produce changes in both body and mind, I consider that some working definition is required that will exclude anesthetics, hypnotics, alcohol, and the derivatives of morphine, atropine, and cocaine.

I have suggested as a definition: “psychotomimetic agents are substances that produce changes in thought, perception, mood and sometimes posture, occurring alone or in concert, without causing either major disturbances of the autonomic nervous system or addictive craving, and although, with overdosage, disorientation, memory disturbance, stupor, and even narcosis may occur, these reactions are not characteristic.”

“I have discussed model psychoses induced by means of these agents.”

“I believe that there is a place for the use of these substances in the training of psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, and others working with the mentally ill. I have linked these agents with recent work on the reduced and specialized environment by Hebb and Lilly, and I have discussed some psychological, social, and philosophical implications inherent in this inquiry, relating them to the newer work on perception.

In view of all these considerations, I have suggested that “psychotomimetic” is far too narrow a generic term, and I have suggested several that imply alterations in the normal mind.

Among these proposed designations are “psychehormic,” “psycherhexic,” and “psychezymic,” my own preference being “psychelytic,” or “psychedelic” – mind-manifesting.”

Cover of ‘How to Live with Schizophrenia’, 1966 book co-authored by psychiatrists Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer


A selection of notable references (emphasis added) from the seventy-six present in Osmond 1957 paper:  

ABRAMSON, H. A. 1955. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD25). III. As an adjunct to psychotherapy. J. Psychol. 39: 127-155. 

CERLETTI, A. 1956. Neuropharmacology: Transactions of the Second Conference. Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. New York, N. Y.  

DEVEREUX, G. 1953. Psychoanalysis and the Occult. International Universities Press. New York, N. Y.

ELLISH, AVELOCK. 1897. Mescal: a new artificial paradise. Ann. Rept. Smithsonian Inst. : 537

FELICE, P. DE. 1936. Poisons Sacrés, Ivresses Divines. A. Michel. Paris, France.  

FREDERKING, W. 1955. Intoxicant drugs (LSD25 and mescaline) in psychotherapy. J. Nervous Mental Disease. 121: 262.

GERARD, RALPH W. 1956. Neuropharmacology: Transactions of the Second Conference. Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. New York, N. Y.  

GIBERTI, F. & L. GREGORETTI. 1955. Lsd. psychosis treated with chlorpromazine and reserpine. Sistema Nervosa. 4: 301-310.

HARRISON, C. G. 1894. The Transcendental Universe. Six Lectures. Elliot. London, England. 

HERON, W., W. H. BEXTON & D. O. HEBB. 1953. Cognitive effects of a decreased variation to the sensory environment. The American Psychologist. 8(8): 366.

HOFFER, A., H. OSMOND & J. R. SMYTHIES. 1954. Schizophrenia: a new approach II. J. Mental Sci. 100: 2945.

HUBBARD, A. M. 1955 & 1956. Personal communications.  

HUXLEY, A. L. 1954. The Doors of Perception. Harper and Brothers. New York, N.Y. 

HUXLEY, A. L. 1956. Heaven and Hell. Chatto and Windus. London, England.  

HUXLEY, T. H. In W. I. B. Beveridge. 1950. The Art of Scientific Investigation. Heinemann, London, England.  

JACKSON, J. HUGHLINGS. 1887. Remarks on Evolution and Dissolution of the Nervous System. Selected writings (1932 ed.). 2: 92-118. Hodder & Stoughton. London, England.

JOHNSON, D. McI. 1953. The Hallucinogenic Drugs. : 15-18. Christopher Johnson. London, England.

JAMES, W. 1906. The Varieties of Religious Experience (Twelfth Impression). Longmans, Green. London, England. 

JUNG, C. G. 1906. Psychology of dementia praecox (translated by A. A. Brill). Neur. and Mental Disease. New York, N.Y. 

JUNG, C. G. 1955. Personal communication. 

KLUVER, H. 1928. Mescal: The Divine Plant. Kegan Paul. London, England. 

LILLY, J. C. 1956. Effects of physical restraint and of reduction of physical stimuli on intact healthy persons. Symposium No. 2. Illustrative strategies for research on psychopathology. Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry. : 13-20.

LILLY, J. C. 1956. Personal communication.

OSMOND, H. & J. R. SMYTHIES. 1952. Schizophrenia: a new approach. J. Mental Sci. 98: 309-315.  

OSMOND, H. 1956. Neuropharmacology: Transactions of the Second Conference. Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. New York, N.Y.  

PENNES, H. H. 1956. Clinical experiences with new hallucinogens. Presented at the American Psychiatric Association Ann. Meeting. Chicago, Ill.

PERETZ, D. I., J. R. SMYTHIES & W. C. GIBSON. 1955. A new hallucinogen: 3, 4, 5, trimethoxyphenyl-himinopropane, with notes on the stroboscopic phenomena. J. Mental Sci. 101:423.

PETRULLO, V. 1936. The Diabolic Root. U. of Pa. Press. Philadelphia, Pa.

SMYTHIES, J. R. 1953. The mescaline phenomena. Brit. J. Phil. Sci. 3(12) : 339-347.

STOCKING, G. T. 1940. A clinical study of the mescalin psychosis. J. Mental Sci. 86: 29.

TIEBOUT, H. 1954. Ego factors in surrender in alcoholism. Quart. J. Studies Alc. 15: 610-621.

TONINI, G. & C. MONTANARI. 1955. Effects of experimentally induced psychoses on artistic expression. 15: 4.


For a bibliography including papers and books by Humphry Osmond, see here.

(3 – third and last of a series, previous articles here and here)

[Photograph at the top, including mainly experts in nutrition and related fields.

Top row, left to right: Wilfred Shute, an unidentified man, Harold Rosenberg, Vergil Jenning, an unidentified man, R. O. Brennan, and John Bumpus [?].

Bottom row: Humphry Osmond, John Miller, Carlton Fredericks, Linus Paulingchemist and the only person to have been awarded two unshared Nobel PrizesAva Helen Pauling, Roger J. Williams, and an unidentified man.

Tulsa, Oklahoma. By David Rivkin, 1972.]

Cite this article as: Federico Soldani, "‘Pneumadelic’? Osmond, 1957: “my own preference being ‘psychelytic’, or ‘psychedelic’ ” /3 (2021)," in PsyPolitics, June 15, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/06/15/pneumadelic-osmond-1957-my-own-preference-being-psychelytic-or-psychedelic-3-2021/.

Last Updated on June 17, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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