Aldous Huxley, Dying of Cancer, Left This World Tripping on LSD (1963)

Aldous Hux­ley put him­self for­ev­er on the intel­lec­tu­al map when he wrote the dystopi­an sci-fi nov­el Brave New World in 1931. (Lis­ten to Hux­ley nar­rat­ing a dra­ma­tized ver­sion here.) The British-born writer was liv­ing in Italy at the time, a con­ti­nen­tal intel­lec­tu­al par excel­lence.

Then, six years lat­er, Hux­ley turned all of this upside down. He head­ed West, to Hol­ly­wood, the newest of the New World, where he took a stab at writ­ing screen­plays (with not much luck) and start­ed exper­i­ment­ing with mys­ti­cism and psy­che­delics — first mesca­line in 1953, then LSD in 1955. This put Hux­ley at the fore­front of the coun­ter­cul­ture’s exper­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­del­ic drugs, some­thing he doc­u­ment­ed in his 1954 book, The Doors of Per­cep­tion.

Hux­ley’s exper­i­men­ta­tion con­tin­ued right through his death in Novem­ber 1963. When can­cer brought him to his death bed, he asked his wife to inject him with “LSD, 100 µg, intra­mus­cu­lar.” He died lat­er that day, just hours after Kennedy’s assas­si­na­tion. Three years lat­er, LSD was offi­cial­ly banned in Cal­i­for­nia.

By way of foot­note, it’s worth men­tion­ing that the Amer­i­can med­ical estab­lish­ment is now giv­ing hal­lu­cino­gens a sec­ond look, con­duct­ing con­trolled stud­ies of how psilo­cy­bin and oth­er psy­che­delics can help treat patients deal­ing with can­cer, obses­sive-com­pul­sive dis­or­der, post-trau­mat­ic stress dis­or­der, drug/alcohol addic­tion and end-of-life anx­i­ety. The New York Times has more on this sto­ry.

For a look at the his­to­ry of LSD, we rec­om­mend the 2002 film Hofmann’s Potion (2002) by Cana­di­an film­mak­er Con­nie Lit­tle­field. You can watch it here, or find it list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Aldous Hux­ley Warns Against Dic­ta­tor­ship in Amer­i­ca

Ken Kesey’s First LSD Trip Ani­mat­ed

20 Pop­u­lar High School Books Avail­able as Free eBooks & Audio Books

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Comments (15)
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  • Jon says:

    This is a ter­rif­i­cal­ly inter­est­ing post. And thanks for the link to the NY Times sto­ry on poten­tial ther­a­peu­tic effects of psy­che­delics. I had­n’t seen it.

  • The more things change…

    In the ear­ly 1960s I worked in the lab­o­ra­to­ry of Dr Humphrey Osmond in Prince­ton NJ. He is respon­si­ble for Hux­ley’s first LSD exper­i­ment (for which he is cred­it­ed in Hux­ley’s book). At the time he also gave LSD to alco­holics and sev­er­al oth­er diag­nosed groups. I worked before the days of Tim­o­thy Leary and the hip­pies’ enchant­ment with psy­che­delics (a word Osmond invent­ed).

    My rec­ol­lec­tion is Osmond’s exper­i­men­tal results were under­whelm­ing. Noth­ing much came of Osmond’s LSD work not because it was uncon­ven­tion­al or coun­ter­cul­ture. The wider world did­n’t learn about LSD until a few years after my employ­ment. The con­clu­sion to be drawn from these ear­ly tri­als is that LSD just did­n’t do the job. To the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion Osmond nev­er bragged to his staff about any LSD ‘cures.’

    But, hey, this is a new cen­tu­ry, so you nev­er know.

  • Gyan says:

    I remem­ber buy­ing a book called “Lsd Psy­chother­a­py” some­where between 1975–1982. It described how a num­ber of psy­chother­a­pists were hav­ing very good results with Lsd in the 70’s. An excel­lent book and worth seek­ing out sec­ond­hand for any­one inter­est­ed in the his­to­ry of Lsd. I think I may even have my own copy buried some­where.

  • Mary F. Board says:

    Bill Wil­son was also very inter­est­ed and spent time with the Tim­o­thy Leary cir­cle in the ear­ly to mid fifties while they were exper­i­ment­ing with LSD. He won­dered and hoped that per­haps the drug could bring on the nec­es­sary spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ence that the alco­holic needs to have a change of heart to embrace and find true peace and hon­esty to begin per­ma­nent recov­ery. He took it, wife Lois and sev­er­al oth­ers in that ear­ly close-knit group of recov­er­ing drunks all tried it in Dr. Leary’s lab­o­ra­to­ry. Obser­va­tions of their behav­ior were jot­ted down. I remem­ber read­ing a biog­ra­phy of Bill Wil­son where the actu­al notes were clear­ly writ­ten and eas­i­ly read in a pho­to­graph. I’ve read sev­er­al biogra­phies about Mr. Wil­son and odd­ly, this LSD exper­i­men­ta­tion by the writer of the 12 steps is only men­tioned in one or two of his biogra­phies. And he too along with the oth­ers in the group who tried the drug, must not have been ter­ri­bly impressed or encour­aged. An hour or so after tak­ing the drug, accord­ing to the notes tak­en, Mr. Wil­son did quite a bit of laugh­ing and gig­gling and asked for a cig­a­rette sev­er­al times. He blew smoke rings and asked for water to help his dry moth.

  • Aerica says:

    psilo­cy­bin was SERIOUSLY help­ful in treat­ing my anx­i­ety and PTSD. also, it helped my fear of death, artis­tic and exis­ten­tial angst, and helped my hygiene and abil­i­ty to func­tion in soci­ety with a pos­i­tive atti­tude. just sayin.

  • margaret says:

    Hav­ing imbibed both lsd and mescalin I do know that it altered my thought process­es. It cer­tain­ly assured me about meta­physics! L s d gave height­ened aware­ness depend­ing on type! Mescalin for me opened the heart chakra so much I would have walked a thou­sand miles for to help some­one! It was one of my fax
    Favourite expe­ri­ences. Psilo­cy­bin was for me not very pleas­ant and phys­i­cal­ly feel­ing not yo my taste. With the way the world is going at such a crazy speed. I always knew deep inside that my l s d expe­ri­ences would help me down the line to cope with such crazi­ness. I sur­vived it all and have become a true philoso­pher of life!! If you ever want­ed to know who some­body real­ly was? Drop some acid with them!! A book called be here now from the six­ties had two guys out if it on l s d vis­it­ing a guru in India! They sat with every­one in silence until the guru looked at one of them and said give me what you have in your pock­et!! He got up and hand­ed the guru a page full of l s d and watched the guru swal­low all in front of him and every­one! He went andsSat down again and the guru con­tin­ued to be still and smile. The mes­sage is clear! When you are tru­ly enlight­ened you no longer need any drug to get you there any­more! Like myself now I am almost pure in body and spir­it and can hon­est­ly say Thanky­ou for a won­der­ful amaz­ing jour­ney with­out any sub­stance to help that per­cep­tion. But yes I had help along the way for sure!!!!

  • shanadoqel says:

    Mar­garet, I would advise you to take a clos­er look into nar­cis­sis­tic ten­den­cies, there is no need to flaunt false ideals about one­self over the inter­net

  • Zoey says:

    Dang, shanado­qel for the two years lat­er burn

  • Lulu says:

    Haha­ha. Dang indeed.

  • Stormcloud says:

    Goodonya Mar­garet for telling your expe­ri­ence. Beau­ti­ful! Nar­cis­sis­tic ten­den­cies? What rot!

  • Daniel Williams says:

    My wife and I had the good for­tune to spend a long after­noon with Albert Hof­mann and his wife Ani­ta, back in 2003 at their love­ly Swiss home. It was as cool as you would think, and we dis­cussed many things over 4+ hours.

    One in par­tic­u­lar is rel­e­vant to the sub­ject here: Mrs. Hux­ley pre­sent­ed Albert with a copy of the note Aldous wrote, as an unspo­ken expres­sion of grat­i­tude for allow­ing her hus­band to pass peace­ful­ly. Albert want­ed to show it to me, and I was thrilled at the prospect. It turned com­i­cal when Albert for­got where he’d placed it for safe keep­ing (he was, after all, 97, but still quite sharp over­all), pac­ing in his study, look­ing from place to place. When it could not be found, he apol­o­gized pro­fuse­ly, trust­ing I’d believe him any­way. And I did (even more so when Ani­ta con­firmed the sto­ry).

    Any­way, just a small piece of triv­ia to add to a beau­ti­ful sto­ry.

  • A.W. says:

    I won­der what Mar­gret is up to now.

  • Slapnuts says:

    Prob­a­bly play­ing Over­watch and look­ing after her two dum­b­ass kids.

  • Robert Hayward says:

    I was “ cured” of alco­holism in a Native Amer­i­can church pey­ote cer­e­mo­ny years ago. It has been used for that rea­son since alco­holism became an issue with us. I wrote a book on it that took years to get per­mis­sion to print. You can read about it Herr or on Ama­zon.

  • Burton little says:

    Often… Amer­i­can Dreams are dis­miss .…

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