FAMILY :: CACTACEAE
PEYOTE: A small blue-green button-cactus from Texas and northern Mexico used by the Hiuchol Indians and others for its hallucinogenic effects. Contains mescaline.
“There is another herbae called peiotle it is found in the north country. Those who eat or drink it see visions either frightful or laughable; this inebriation lasts two or three days and then ceases. It is a sort of delicacy of the Chichimecas, it sustains them and gives them courage to fight and not feel fear, nor hunger, nor thirst, and they say it protects them from any danger.”
– Friar Bernardino de Sahagan, 1560
ABOUT THIS VIDEO:
Dr. Humphry Osmond was the British psychiatrist who coined the term “psychedelic”. This short video documents an experiment in 1955 in which he administered mescaline to Lord Christopher Mayhew, a member of parliament. Mayhew ingested 400mg of mescaline hydrochloride and recorded his experience on camera.
The footage was originally supposed to be broadcast on the BBC.
Mayhew himself maintains that it was a genuine mystical experience which “took place outside time” and wanted it to be shown. However, an “expert” committee of psychiatrists, philosophers, and theologians reviewed the footage and reached a unanimous verdict that Mayhew’s experience was not a valid mystical experience. So it was never broadcast.
Dr. Humphry Osmond first offered the term “psychedelic” at a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1957. He said the word meant “mind manifesting” and called it “clear, euphonious and uncontaminated by other associations.” Huxley had sent Osmond a rhyme containing his own suggested coinage: “To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme.” (thymos means spritedness in Greek.) Rejecting that, Osmond countered: “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic.”
Osmond is also known for one study in the late 1950s in which he attempted to cure alcoholics with acute LSD treatment, resulting in a claimed 50% success rate. He also treated Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill W. with LSD with positive results. There exists however an alternate version of the events that is told by psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, MD. Osmond and Hoffer not only worked with LSD but also with niacin, which is now called vitamin B3. It is Bill W. himself who made this term popular, after he realized, thanks to the two researchers, the antipsychotic potential of this vitamin when given in supraphysiologic doses. B3 became known as a treatment for alcoholism, as well as for LSD-induced and schizophrenic psychosis Vitamin B-3: Niacin and Its Amide by A. Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.. The underlying adrenochrome and kryptopyrrole (mauve factor) hypotheses were met with stiff, unsubstantiated opposition. The B3 protocol for alcoholism, despite encouraging results, fell into oblivion amongst the Alcoholics Anonymous organization, which gradually became a faith-based organization reflecting the orientations of the other AA co-founder.
Osmond was open-minded, curious, and adventurous enough to participate in a Native American Church ceremony in which he and the others present (Plains Indians) ingested peyote in a tipi regarded as sacred space. Osmond’s hosts were members of the Red Pheasant Band, and the all-night ceremony took place near North Battleford (in the region of the South Saskatchewan River). Osmond published his report on the experience in Tomorrow magazine, Spring 1961. He reported details of the ceremony, the environment in which it took place, the effects of the peyote, the courtesy of his Native hosts, and his conjecture as to the meaning for them of the experience and of the Native American Church. None of these things could really be separated from one another, and Osmond wrote appreciatively of the genuine depth of the ceremony for modern Native people, specifically for these Plains Indians.
Beyond his interest in drug- and vitamin-assisted therapeutics, Osmond conducted research into the long-term effects of institutionalization, and began a line of research into what he called “socio-architecture” to improve patient settings, coining the terms “sociofugal” and “sociopedal,” starting Robert Sommer’s career, and making fundamental contributions to environmental psychology almost by accident.
Later, Osmond became director of the Bureau of Research in Neurology and Psychiatry at the New Jersey Psychiatric Institute in Princeton, and then a professor of psychology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Osmond co-wrote eleven books and was widely published throughout his career.
Osmond died of cardiac arrhythmia in 2004.