Michael Horowitz is a psychoactive drug historian and writer.  He co-founded the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library and was Timothy Leary’s archivist and bibliographer.  With his wife, Cynthia Palmer, he edited Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Writings on Psychedelic Drugs and Visionary Experience, and Sisters of the Extreme:  Women Writing on the Drug Experience and co-edited Leary’s Chaos and Cyber Culture  He operates Flashback Books, a virtual bookstore on eBay specializing in psychoactive drugs.  He gave this talk at a WVC Salon in Vancouver, BC in November 2014.

Antidotes To Everything

Antidote: a remedy to counteract the effects of a poison or a negative mindset.


Past imprints
Formal education
Average sex
Failing to get the joke


Life’s problems
Death’s dominion
Organized religion
Disorganized religion
Reliance on anti-depressants
Imperfect psychoactive drugs
Less than instant gratification


Belief systems
Profit and loss
Prophets and love lost
The God Game


Verbal expression
Existential angst
Visionary deficit disorders
Listening to speakers talk about them
at psychedelic conferences


The absence of insight
A shortage of gratuitous grace
Truth and consequences
The sound of both hands clapping

Long before he took a psychedelic drug, Aldous Huxley speculated that the antidote for the psychological ills of the modern world would be the discovery of a beneficial drug capable of providing genuine ecstasy.

“The person who invents such a substance,” he wrote, “will be counted among the greatest benefactors of suffering humanity.”

The drug he introduced in his dystopian novel, Brave New World (1932), was called soma, after the most ancient of recorded drugs. It provided a holiday from everyday reality while it enabled the conditions of totalitarian social control.

“There is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for the weekend, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon.”

Thirty years later, after having taken mescaline, psilocybin and LSD, Huxley in his last novel Island contrasted the use of tranquilizers (forerunners of today’s ubiquitous antidepressants) and stimulants with the spiritual potential of psychedelics, and “predicted a future society in which chemically induced transcendental experiences would lead to a mysticism focused not on symbolic structures but on the transformation of everyday life (Marcus Boon, The Road of Excess).”

Timothy Leary, writing in the early ‘60s: “Nature always produces the cure for the particular disease which has evolved. The disease that is crushing and oppressing this planet today is man’s possessive and manipulatory symbolic mind, and the cure for the disease has been provided.

“I have no illusions; LSD is simply a particular evolutionary molecule at exactly the moment when it’s needed.

“We feel like a medical team in a plague area. What is the plague? Abstract intellectualism. People instinctively reaching for categories.”

Psychedelics are remedies for minds hung up in categories, and antidotes to the harms of conditioning and brainwashing.

In 1978 Albert Hofmann and Gordon Wasson proposed that the Eleusinian Mysteries, the annual all-night ceremonial pageant of Ancient Greece performed over two millennia, was a kind of Trips Festival or Acid Test, with the sacred elixir kykeon a form of LSD. The Ancient Greek luminaries, from Socrates to Sappho, at least for one night a year, were blissed-out acidheads. There was even a Leary-Kesey figure named Alcibiades, who was arrested for stealing the sacrament from the temple and distributing it at private parties in 5th century Athens, thus qualifying him as the patron saint of recreational drug users.

The state, the church, the politicians and the military have for centuries demonized psychedelic plants. Their interests have been confined to their weaponizing and criminalizing.

Psychedelics are antidotes to thought control and the perpetual war machine. Psychedelics speak truth to power, empowering free agents to think for themselves.

Secrecy is essential to the apparatus of the culture of control, nowhere better displayed than in the workings of the hyper-paranoid intelligence agencies.

Psychedelics are the antidote to both institutional and personal secrecy. They “occupy” the Ineffable, and serve as cosmic whistleblowers.

The 1960s counterculture briefly liberated psychedelics, seeing them as spiritual and humanistic antidotes to controlling authority. The ruthlessly suppressed psychedelic movement planted the seeds that are flowering now, with further discoveries of plants and their compounds by ethnobotanists and chemists, and the efforts of researchers who are gradually moving them toward legal pharmaceutical status.

Psychedelics are of the rainforest and the desert, of backyard gardens and the laboratories of visionary chemists, yet they speak to us in the language of electrons, born in the accelerated brain. In the 1960s McLuhan predicted that “drugs that accelerate the brain” will only be widely accepted “when the population is geared to computers.”

Electronic language is the language of the media—- the television screen, the Internet, the wondrous devices that enable us to practice our free agentry–and the National Security Agency to become a zettabyte-powered snoop factory. It took one electronic dissident to expose it, but it still lumbers on, bloated on its monstrous data collection.

On a lighter note, “psychedelics expose and reduce the objects of our everyday world–those coveted and sexualized commodities–to a stoned ridiculousness (Richard Doyle, Darwin’s Pharmacy).” Psychedelics are the antidote to consumerism.

Psychedelics suspend time and promote immediacy. Being in the Now. They are the antidotes to being fixated on the calamities of the past…of our own personal fuck-ups and traumas…of the fears and promises of the future.

“Under LSD we seem to come up against that part of our inner world where meanings are made, where the patterning process operates in its pure form” (Richard Marsh in Psychedelic Review).

LSD is the antidote to the singularity of meaning and the pretense of patterns.

Psychedelics have given us the concept of the cosmic joke–the antidote to ego-driven uptightness and paranoia.

During an LSD trip, its discoverer Albert Hofmann found himself “laughing hopelessly.” Only on LSD can hopelessness be the occasion of laughter. That’s why psychedelics are so important now, as an antidote to hopelessness, of which there is clearly too much around.

Official research is underway for the first time in half a century; unofficial research—-recreational use–long criminalized, is undergoing gradual rehabilitation.

In Switzerland in April 1943, during one of the darkest periods in modern history, LSD placed a call to Albert Hofmann, and Albert picked up the receiver. When LSD calls, it is always best to answer. And if you’re put on hold, don’t hang up. Your call will be answered by the next available shaman or shamaness.

But if your phone is not encrypted or the shaman turns out to be a fraud, you’d best establish a direct connection to this alien caller. It might just be you in the future.

An earlier version of this talk was given at the Spirit of Basel Symposium on LSD: Problem Child and Wonder Drug (2006), honoring Albert Hofmann on his 100th birthday.