Artwork by Brian Blomerth
On April 19th, the world celebrates a profound moment in psychedelic history: Albert Hofmann’s Bicycle Day. Psychonauts celebrate the day that marks the remarkable journey of Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hofmann into the realms of altered consciousness through his discovery of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). Sparking a cultural fascination with recreational LSD use, and forever changing our perception of reality.
Hoffman’s Problem Child
Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann’s encounter with LSD was no ordinary discovery. It was a laboratory accident that unveiled the chemical compound that would later be known as the “problem child” of pharmacology. While working at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals, Hofmann re-synthesized an amount of lysergic acid diethylamide on April 16th, 1943. He accidentally had a psychedelic trip that day when he was exposed to a small amount of the chemical.
“… affected by a remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness. At home I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring). I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After about two hours this condition faded away.”
Bicycle Day’s Origin Story
Little did he know that a few days later, on April 19th, he would go on to experience a full LSD trip. An event that would go on to become celebrated by science, creatives, and bohemians, as Bicycle Day. Hoffman had originally created the LSD in hope to assist with heart and lung conditions. On that fateful day, Hofmann ingested what he thought was a small amount of LSD to test the new drug. Blissfully unaware of the psychedelic journey that awaited him. As the effects took hold, he embarked on a bike ride home with his lab assistant like no other. The streets of Basel, Switzerland transformed into a kaleidoscopic play of colors and shapes. With reality itself shifting in and out of focus, in his first-person account.
“… Little by little I could begin to enjoy the unprecedented colors and plays of shapes that persisted behind my closed eyes. Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me, alternating, variegated, opening and then closing themselves in circles and spirals. Exploding in colored fountains, rearranging and hybridizing themselves in constant flux …”
This bike ride was not only Hofmann’s first powerful encounter with LSD but also the first intentional LSD trip in recorded history. His descriptions of the journey revealed a state of mind that went beyond the boundaries of ordinary perception, as he navigated through a world in constant flux. Subsequently, April 19th is now recognized as World Bicycle Day, a date that is celebrated by psychonauts around the world.
A Counterculture Pioneer
While Hofmann’s initial encounter with LSD was not entirely intentional, it was this accidental journey that sparked a global movement and laid the foundation for the study of psychedelic substances. In the years that followed, LSD found its way to the United States, where it became associated with the counterculture of the 1960s. Musicians and performers, inspired by the psychedelic effects of LSD, began to incorporate its influence into their works. Album covers, such as those of Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles embraced the technicolor acid style. Characteristic vividly changing images, and psychedelic colors that mirrored the effects of the substance.
Hofmann’s discovery also had an impact on science and medicine. Despite the severe restrictions placed on psychedelic research during the mid-20th century, researchers like Dr. Thomas B. Roberts and Dennis McKenna continued to explore the potential benefits of LSD. They believed that these substances could offer insights into human evolution, consciousness, and even mental health issues.
Bicycle Day’s Influence on The Human Conscious
The psychedelic effects of LSD also found their way into the world of visual art. Artists like Brian Blomerth have used LSD as a tool to tap into their creativity. Resulting in ambitious works that blend classic underground art styles with a touch of irreverent visual wit. Blomerth’s “Bicycle Day” captures the essence of Hofmann’s first trip in a graphic novel, merging the fantastical and the absurd in a single frame.
The name “Bicycle Day” itself encapsulates the extraordinary true story of Albert Hofmann’s discovery. It reminds us of the power of accidental revelations and the uncharted territories of human consciousness. Just as a bicycle represents a sustainable means of transportation, Hofmann’s journey symbolizes a sustainable development in the field of psychedelic science.
Hofmann’s accidental acid trip was not the first instance of humans interacting with mind-altering substances. Throughout history, various cultures have explored plant medicines like magic mushrooms to induce altered states of consciousness. The ancient ritual medicines of indigenous communities like Ayahuasca and the ceremonial use of these substances have deep roots in our history.
What is LSD
It’s worth noting that the history of LSD is intertwined with the tale of the ergot fungus. This fungus, which grows on rye and various other grains contains compounds that have been used for centuries to induce altered states. Chemist Arthur Stoll’s work on ergot paved the way for the synthesis of LSD, as it was derived from the fungus.
The effects of LSD often defy easy description. Users have reported experiences ranging from feelings of connectedness to an almost “not unpleasant intoxicated-like condition.” The mind seems to expand, and the ordinary world gives way to an extraordinary landscape of thoughts, emotions, and sensations.
The Future of Psychedelics
Hofmann’s discovery opened up new avenues for exploring altered states of consciousness. His journey, triggered by an experimental dose of a new compound, echoed the explorations of pioneers like Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, and Aldous Huxley. These figures believed that LSD could lead to profound insights and personal transformation.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the potential benefits of psychedelic substances. Research into the therapeutic use of LSD and other psychedelics, has shown promise in treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. This research marks a departure from the stigma that has long been associated with these substances. With cities like Vancouver, Denver, and San Francisco recently decimalizing these substances.
As we reflect on Albert Hofmann’s Bicycle Day, we’re reminded of the role that chance and curiosity play in shaping our understanding of the world as human beings. Hofmann’s accidental journey introduced us to the wonders of LSD and its effects on human perception. His story is a testament to the power of scientific exploration and the capacity of the human mind to explore uncharted territories.
Timothy Leary – Turn on, tune in, drop out
Timothy Leary’s influence on LSD is nothing short of revolutionary. As a prominent psychologist and counterculture icon in the 1960s. Leary played a pivotal role in popularizing the use of LSD, also known as “acid.” Advocating for its exploration as a tool for expanding consciousness, Leary’s active promotion of LSD led to widespread experimentation. Consequently, sparking a cultural phenomenon that challenged traditional norms and encouraged individuals to embark on mind-altering journeys. Through his famous phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out,” Leary encouraged a generation to question authority, seek personal enlightenment, and explore the depths of their own minds. His advocacy not only had a profound impact on the perception of psychedelics but also laid the groundwork for future research into their potential therapeutic applications. Today, Leary’s legacy continues to be felt in discussions about consciousness, spirituality, and the potential benefits of psychedelic substances.
Ram Dass – We’re all just walking each other home
Ram Dass, formerly known as Dr. Richard Alpert a psychology Professor, emerged as a prominent figure in the realm of spirituality and consciousness exploration, particularly in relation to LSD. His journey alongside Timothy Leary at Harvard University exploring the effects of psychedelics on human consciousness is a captivating chapter in the history of the counterculture movement.
Ram Dass’ personal transformation following his experiences with LSD led him on a profound quest for spiritual enlightenment. Ultimately culminating in his iconic book “Be Here Now.” This literary masterpiece not only chronicles his own spiritual evolution but also serves as a guide for readers seeking a deeper understanding of spirituality and mindfulness. Ram Dass’ integration of his psychedelic encounters into his teachings brought Eastern spirituality and Western psychology together. Inspiring generations to explore their own inner landscapes. His legacy as a spiritual teacher and advocate for holistic well-being continues to resonate. Making him a pivotal figure in the ongoing discourse surrounding psychedelics and consciousness.
Aldous Huxley – I like being myself. Myself and nasty
Writer Aldous Leonard Huxley is known as a visionary intellectual whose profound influence on LSD and its exploration is undeniable. Renowned for his thought-provoking novels like “Brave New World,” Huxley’s curiosity extended beyond the realm of fiction into the realm of consciousness expansion. In his groundbreaking work “The Doors of Perception,” Huxley chronicles his personal experiences with mescaline. This is a substance similar to LSD, used to delve into the altered state of consciousness.
This exploration paved the way for his later fascination with LSD, leading to the creation of his book “Heaven and Hell.” In this book he delved into the potential of psychedelics to reveal hidden dimensions of reality. Huxley’s eloquent writings and philosophical insights ignited a cultural dialogue on the intersection of mind-altering substances, spirituality, and human perception. His influence resonates not only among scholars but also within the contemporary resurgence of interest in psychedelics for therapeutic and consciousness-expanding purposes. Huxley’s legacy continues to inspire seekers of knowledge and enlightenment, as his work bridges the gap between science, spirituality, and the human experience.
In conclusion, Albert Hofmann’s Bicycle Day is more than a celebration of a historic bike ride. It is a commemoration of a moment that forever altered human understanding of consciousness and reality. Hofmann’s accidental discovery of LSD opened the door to a world of psychedelic exploration. Sparking a global movement that continues to influence art, science, and culture. As we pedal forward in our pursuit of knowledge, let’s remember the extraordinary true story that unfolded on April 19th and honor the legacy of Albert Hofmann’s groundbreaking journey.
Mush Love xo