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Emor: Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

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The Spiritual Revolution

One of the lesser known – and more notorious – revolutions in modern times was accidentally launched by a man who died last week.

The man is Dr. Albert Hoffman and the controversial discovery he made was Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, which set in motion a series of events that many attribute to precipitating some of the most fundamental changes of our times, from spiritual awakenings to the computer revolution, from a new vision of life to the Internet.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide, for those that may not be aware, is better known as LSD, or just plain “acid.” This chemical compound was accidentally discovered by the Swiss chemist in 1943, when he inadvertently ingested it while working at the Swiss drug firm Sandoz. Despite its disreputable reputation, its illegality and the damage it has done to many, LSD remains an icon in contemporary society.

Just read this week’s obituaries – in mainstream media – about Dr. Hoffman, almost deifying the banned psychedelic, and it’s clear that America’s romance with LSD continues to haunt the modern psyche, despite its demonization by US officials who banned it in 1966.

The family weekly magazine Newsweek quotes, of all people, John Perry Barlow, a former lyricist for the Grateful Dead: “Albert Hofmann was an accidental prophet. But his casual revelation likely introduced more people to the spiritual dimension than any other discovery of the last 500 years. Around 1966, enough of my generation had taken LSD to just cut loose. We had a sudden feeling of permission: we felt it was OK to look critically at the world, to ask serious questions about the war, about how this country was governed and what to do with our lives. LSD did that. It made authority look funny. There were many things conspiring to make that moment in history a little crazy, but our reaction would have been very different without LSD. It set us free in a way we’d never been before—maybe in a way that nobody had been. Hofmann was, and is, our patron saint.”

The venerable New York Times ran an essay in their Ideas and Trends column, analyzing the drug and the forces it unleashed affecting society in profound ways. In the Times article, Benedict Carey writes that “most drugs that capture the imagination of the wider culture seem at first to soothe the unease or gloom of their times, like Valium in the 1970s or Prozac in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But lysergic acid diethylamide… did exactly the opposite. It inflamed people’s hopes and fears, powerfully so.

“LSD, it turns out, is one of the most potent consciousness-altering substances known; an amount the size of a grain of salt can induce swirls of emotion, and shimmering clear senses in which the ordinary becomes extraordinary, luminous, meaningful. It can infuse a person with creative energy or overwhelm the brain with a swarming feeling of loss and fear.”

“Looking back, scholars say, it’s hard to imagine that such a drug, once in circulation, could not have taken Western culture for a wild ride, especially given the forces at play in the postwar United States. ‘It’s a terrible phrase, but I think of LSD as a potentiator of possibilities. It just evoked these grandiose possibilities with people,’ said Martin A. Lee, co-author of Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The C.I.A., the ’60s and Beyond. Scientists in the 1940s and 1950s, for instance, thought it might be the key to providing healing insight, a window on the soul, a way to transcend psychosis, mania, depression. Dr. Hofmann thought it could awaken a deeper awareness of mankind’s place in nature.”

Now before anyone crucifies me for participating in the glorification of LSD, allow me to me to make it very clear that I am in no way advocating the use of drugs – or any foreign substance – to elicit a mystical experience or for any reason. Quite the contrary, as I elaborated upon in a previous article, Drugs: Strange Fire.

Yet, we cannot ignore the social phenomenon caused by LSD (and other drugs), and the role it played in the rebellious 60’s and its aftereffects that still echo and shape society today. Thus, the focus of this article to dissect a bit the counterculture and the forces that helped shape the new world and open up new frontiers.

Two things stand out, amidst the many issues that LSD came to epitomize. The first is the deep spiritual hunger of our generation. Hence, the powerful reception to LSD – and other drugs and mechanisms – anything to relieve the monotony of pedestrian life.

Young people in the 60’s took to LSD in swarms many of “who longed not only to shake free of mainstream suburban-corporate culture but also to transform it, and themselves. They weren’t looking for an angry fix but something far grander.” “To put matters bluntly: the hippies were an attempt to push evolution, to jump the species toward a higher integration… LSD was a mind detergent capable of washing away years of social programming, a re-imprinting device, a consciousness-expander, a tool that would push us up the evolutionary ladder,” wrote Jay Stevens in his 1987 book, “Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream.”

LSD was seen by some as a tool for personal transformation, famously unlocking the Blakean doors of perception and altering human consciousnesses, as advocated by prominent proponents like Aldous Huxley. Timothy Leary, LSD’s pied piper, was a Harvard professor whose public raptures over the drug were a strong cocktail of mystical and scientific jargon. Regarding LSD, Leary said, “expand your consciousness and find ecstasy and revelation within.”

The second vital lesson from the LSD experience is the human temptation for a quick fix. Instead of earning our way to heightened consciousness, when the process comes too easily – by ingesting a pill, or injecting or other xxx – it will always be abused, and ultimately feed into human self-indulgence and self-destructive behavior. As Carey writes, with all LSD’s benefits, “by 1966 a raft of toxic knockoffs were on the street, and the authorities recognized that, whatever its upside, acid had become part of a self-devouring drug culture that exposed many users to a poisonous menu of illicit drugs. The government outlawed distribution of LSD, and research into its effects soon ground to a near halt.”

In the final analysis – though we have hardly reached the end of the journey – LSD did open up new channels of awareness, and despite its downside, led to a new way of thinking, the belief in novel possibilities, a sense of the unifying spirit within all of existence and the revolutionary conviction that we can change the world. It provided a vision of a new order.

Without this new awareness we would in all likeliness not have computers, cell phones and other technologies. Even if the science were there, the non-conformist attitude of the counterculture helped provide the courage needed to invest in new technologies and feel confident in the success of thinking differently and creating new paradigms.

LSD fashions and values had a major effect on culture, influencing popular music, television, film, literature, and the arts. In a 1995 Time Magazine article, Steward Brand attributed the computer revolution and the Internet to the counter-cultures psychedelic experience. “Most of our generation scorned computers as the embodiment of centralized control. But a tiny contingent – later called ‘hackers’ – embraced computers and set about transforming them into tools of liberation. That turned out to be the true royal road to the future… Hippies and nerds alike reveled in… contempt for centralized authority. To this day, computer scientists and technicians are almost universally science-fiction fans.

And all this was in 1995. Today, 13 years later, the cyberspace revolution and the information age bears the distinctive mark of the countercultural ’60s.

Undoubtedly we have not reached the end of the journey. The forces unleashed by the LSD generation continue to impact the world today. But hopefully, today we have also learned, in retrospect, how to extract the positive lessons and reject the negative ones – by focusing on healthy and natural ways of accessing the spiritual and discovering the inherent unity in existence.

I will never forget the fellow who came to one of my classes and wanted to know what my opinion was about the use of LSD to discover G-d (I shared this story on one of my radio shows, Growing Through Our Pasts, which complements this article).  The gentleman was clearly stoned when he walked into the class – apparent from his demeanor and voice – and he described his own life story:

“I grew up in a semi-traditional home where we kept kosher, I attended yeshiva, was bar mitzvah-ed, read Hebrew and went to shul (synagogue) every Shabbos. Frankly, the rituals were always hollow experiences. We did them by rote and that was that. Then, as a teenager, I simply lost interest and drifted off. It wasn’t speaking to me. I essentially rebelled and left everything that was Jewish. Besides for some nostalgic or guilty visits to shul on Yom Kippur, I no longer was a practicing or active Jew.

“However, my search went on. Growing up in the late 60s, I went off to L.A. and discovered G-d and spirituality through Far Eastern religions, and most importantly, through my LSD experiences, which opened my eyes to a deeper reality. For the first time I came to the absolute awareness that the Divine vivifies everything in existence, and that an underlying unity connects us all. My spirituality was nourished from these alternative trips.

“And then, it was LSD that brought me back to my Judaism. Once, on a flight from the East Coast to the West, I had dropped some acid and I was in a trance surrounded by pulsating clouds. Suddenly I heard from the back of the plane a quorum of Jews davening (praying). As I heard them reciting ‘Kodosh, kodosh, kodosh (holy, holy, holy) is G-d, the whole earth is filled with His glory, I literally felt the celestial angels singing and sensed cosmic holiness all around me. As a child I recited these same Hebrew words many times. But I never experienced them in any personal, profound, or spiritual way. This time it was completely different. I jumped up and something drew me to the back of the plane. I joined them and for the first time in many years I prayed, this time with kavanah (intention), passion and feeling.

“Thus began my return journey to Judaism. I began to daven regularly, don tefillin daily, observe Shabbat, eat kosher. I would say that I’m more observant today than when was a child – and all due to LSD!”

“So my question Rabbi is this: “Without LSD, I would not be a practicing Jew. It woke me up to my soul and ignited my faith in G-d. It brought me back to my roots. What’s your opinion on that? Would you advocate LSD or other alternative methods to discover G-d?

You could hear a pin drop as 40-50 people in the class looked to me to see what I would say. Would I endorse – provide a hashgacha for – psychedelics? Or would I condemn the use of drugs, and in effect condemn this fellow’s – and many other people’s – return to embracing Judaism?

– Quiz: Before I tell you what I replied, what would you say? –

My reply: “Obviously we cannot endorse the use of any drug. But allow me to offer you an example. Imagine someone falling into a coma, G-d forbid. Every medical intervention doesn’t work. No one is able to revive the poor soul.

“Finally, one doctor suggests that since nothing is working, let’s inject the person with a massive dose of drugs in order to shake up his system, maybe, just maybe this will revive him. We would never inject a healthy, conscious person with this massive dose; it may even kill him. But in this dire situation, the doctors are left with no choice. They have nothing to lose. He’s going into atrophy and at a certain point, the body cannot maintain the comatose state. So as last resort, they inject the drugs and it works: They revive the individual.

“What do we derive from this? Would anyone suggest that we begin administering drugs to healthy people? Of course not! This dangerous method is only used for someone in a comatose state when all other options have been exhausted.

“The same is in our case. Many people today are in a spiritual coma, for one reason or another. Ignorance, assimilation, religious corruption, material temptations and dogma without soulfulness are some of the primary causes that have created a climate of apathy and alienation from religious commitment. There are healthy ways to revive a soul. Judaism advocates the study and experience of the “inner” mystical (soul) dimension of Torah as a “natural” way to awaken the human soul.

“In this spiritually comatose state, perhaps G-d in his mysterious ways planted spiritual reminders in the strangest places, in certain plants and chemicals, which have the power to induce a spiritual experience. But these dangerous methods should never be used on a healthy person. Once someone has fallen into a coma, and nothing else has worked, then and only then – after the fact – can we say that the drug saved his life. Obviously, the first option is to achieve the same revival through healthy means. And even when alternative means were used, even then, once you have been revived, now you must continue the spiritual journey in natural, healthy ways, and not depend on harmful drugs.”

“I therefore tell you,” I concluded, “that I am saddened to hear about your experience. It is indeed a sad testimony to the current state of religion that it could not bring G-d into your life in a relevant way, and that you needed some type of massive injection, so to speak, to get you out of your spiritual coma. But I am glad to hear that G-d did help wake you up. And now that you’ve discovered the Divine, you should be speaking to people, to young men and women who were like you back then, facing similar challenges. Share with them your experiences, offer them healthy, natural methods to access and ignite the soul, teach them how to live a wholesome transcendent life.”

We must be careful to distinguish between the means and the end, between the results of an experience and the experience itself. Even as we invalidate the method (LSD) used to reach G-d, we can never invalidate the person and his needs that led him to go there in the first place. Nor can we invalidate the results of the drug that revived his soul.

People are desperate because they need transcendence; they need purpose, meaning and passion. And they will search for it one way or another. It’s no accident that so many young people are drawn to drugs because there’s a vacuum in their lives. It’s easy to wring our hands and say, look how terrible.

But when there’s a profound vacuum and you don’t fill it in healthy ways you’ll fill it in unhealthy ways. That’s how it is. When the soul is hungry it will get its day. If it’s fed in healthy ways it will be healthy. If not, it will be extremely unhealthy, to the point of self-destruction. And that’s why drugs have such a powerful appeal, precisely because of the hunger.

So I told this fellow, “I feel that you were in a spiritual coma. The religion you grew up with was not presented in a way that spoke to your soul. You were left hungry. Since there was a vacuum you went to fill it.

“I will never judge you or in any way invalidate your hunger. Optimally, someone would have met you and provided you a healthy way to access your soul. Why try dangerous drugs, with all sorts of side effects, when healthy methods can wake you up?

“But once that did not happen and you found an alternative method, even as we see that method as destructive, we cannot invalidate the results of the experience that filled the void and the nourishment that fed the hunger, just as we can’t invalidate the void and the hunger.

“What you need to do is realize that G-d saved your life. And maybe G-d deposited a spark of rousing potency in bizarre compounds and substances (or in different ideologies and countries), like LSD or other forms which induce spiritual highs. Why did G-d place it there? Not because that’s the way to go, but because it could possibly be the last resort to prevent spiritual death from spiritual hunger. But that does not validate the experience. What it simply does is validate the soul’s search.”

Ahh, the dignity and mystery of a soul’s journey, with all its bizarre twists and turns, sometimes smooth, sometimes rocky, often peaceful, often painful.

In strange times, the journey takes strange turns. The key is to stay on course, and even when we veer a bit – never allow our pasts to haunt us. Rather, to see our pasts, no matter how regretful, as springboards for a healthy future. To extract the fruit and discard the shell.

Image by Krysthopher Woods/Flickr.

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23 Comments
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yosef
12 years ago

Yasher koach, Rabbi J.

LSD — Lets start davening!!!
POT — Put on tefillin!!!

Yosef
Portland, Oregon

Sara Glatt
12 years ago

you may find my Mamaiboga youtube videos
interesting as well, Iboga has been used
in Africa for thousend of years.

http://nl.youtube.com/user/mamaiboga

and another link http://www.savefile.com/files/1562389

Im giving Iboga session at my home,you can see it in that film.

shabat-shalom, Sara Glatt

Pauline
12 years ago

Dear Rabbi

I agree with what you said (below). I am a 54 year old woman who went through the end of the hippy era and followed my nose into many an unsuitable area…….. and it is true to say that your hidden desires can become manifest when you read into something that, that you want, but that actually isnt there. But this is difficult to explain to people who havent experienced this and who are not in touch with themselves (to a certain degree).

Thank you for your writings – its brought my husband and I closer together as we often read it together.

Shabbat Shalom!

Pauline from Cape Town, South Africa

I would even venture to say, that anyone trying drugs is probably prone to it before reading my article. Its hard for me to imagine that my writing alone should cause someone to do that. But I stand corrected if I am proven wrong.

Steve S.
12 years ago

Dear Rabbi,

I had an incredible life altering experience using LSD 30 years ago. I was in the military on weekend leave, under the influence I was initially very confused, had lots of questions about life. I managed to get back to my hotel room, turned on the TV at 2 AM in middle of nowhere and the movie
10 Commandments with Charlton Heston came on. In the midst of my confusion it appeared that Moses spoke to me with about some very important virtues, it was called the 10 Commandments which has helped steer me throughout my life. Shabbat Shalom.

Steve S.

Yitzchok M
12 years ago

Dear Rabbi Jacobson:

Having read your first article regarding LSD, You have made your point with utmost clarity, whereby there is no excuse for a young woman who is allegedly intelligent and mature to use LSD and then cite your article as the reason. As far as I am concerned, what you had to say is most interesting, indeed–that a person who was spiritually comatose could be brought back to Torah by the singularly drastic necessity, perhaps, of the drug LSD, which only goes to show that HaShem works in mysterious ways. Most of us Baalei Tshuva, who were also somewhat anesthetized spiritually could be revived by far less physically extreme measures, such as the inspiration of Chasidus. The stuff works! And it doesnt interfere with ones biochemistry in ways that are dangerous.

I dont see where you are in any way responsible for the decisions of mentally sound adults. In any case, the RAMBAM teaches, in Moreh Nevuchim that even HaShems holy words can be distorted by people with agendas.

Have a good Shabbos.

Yitzchok M

New Haven

Ivan
12 years ago

Dear wisdomreb,

I confess, I did not read your article on LSD but I fully understand the concern of the individual who is writing to you. Several years ago, out of concern for kids, an elementary school principal brought in an ex addict/convict to talk to the kids and explain to them all the struggles and hardships he had to go through before he rehabed himself. The effort seemed as a great success, especially because of the positive reception by the students. But that year, many of the kids wrote in their year-end essays on what they want to do when they grow up, that they would like to grow up to be ex-convicts.

The reason why I am telling you this story is because, when it comes to those who he was entrusted to educate, the school principals good intentions is not what matters. What matters then is the effect of his naive actions. And it would not have been right for the principal to excuse himself by explaining that the kids should have known better, they were not the ones who created the problem.

So, it is not relevant that you would even venture to say, that anyone trying drugs is probably prone to it before reading my article., and it is not relevant that Its hard for me to imagine that my writing alone should cause someone to do that.

Also, no one, I imagine, is asking you to avoid writing about this topic because someone may mistakenly be enticed to try drugs. Maybe people just want you to be premeditated and careful how you write about it, in your wisdom reb.

Ivan (a long lost friend).

David F.
12 years ago

B”H

Dear Rab Jacobson, we meet in Caracas long time ago and me and my family are proud and happy to share your weekly comments and your deepest thoughts in torah every shabatt diner.

It’s always easy for the retarded to take the wrong ways than to become closer to torah, it’s much easier to justify a sin than to become in teshuva.

We, the jews, are definitely a hard bone to eat 😉 … but your never ending work will change AM ISRAEL to better paths.

Keep up with your hard work.

Your friend
David F.

M.L.
12 years ago

Mentor,

Are you going to take seriously anybody who tells that all mammoths had died out because of you?

Person might understand the problem in the way he wants to understand. We all have comprehension limits, as we say in proverb: each persons understanding is according to his training (or his depravity). With my poor English, in your article I heard a great yearn for Salinger’s age with his hero Holden Caulfield who gave us a great short against arrogance and all that media brainwash we have today. Let’s blame Salinger in” Pandora’s Box he may have opened” and hang all dead dogs with LSD on him!

12 years ago

Dear Rabbi,
Thank you for your last week essay.
You made us to turn back to our values that almost have been lost for few decades. We were fond of Salinger and his hero Holden Caulfield gave us a great shot against arrogance and all that media brainwash we have today. LSD is just cover-up for more important issue that you aroused in your article: search for ourselves.
Sorry for those who missed the point!
Have a good Sabbath!

Eliezer Z.
12 years ago

Shalom UBrachah, Reb Simon:
We have not been in touch for a quite a while, I hope all is well beruchnious and ve gashmious! I am contacting you in connection to your recent writing on LSD. As somebody that once worked with you, I feel compelled to offer some clarifications on the issue. As a classical mind-altering drug, LSD has profound impact in both our perceptions and our consciousness. I have used it before I became a baal Tshuva. One of the most dramatic effects of LSD is the way it changes perception, for example, colors become remarkably sharper. I do not know of any information indicating that the physiological processes associated with color perception get sharper, what I believe it happens is that interference from the brain mechanisms that process color perception get weaker, so the connection between the retina and the brain centers that see color get cleaner. This is clearly associated with the well known LSD effects in the removal of social inhibitions and of ego control. As a G-d loving Jew, I welcome in principle any way to get closer to Hashem. So if I am seeking an experience in which I can perceive G-d as clearly as possible, then LSD is a desirable agent: my ego gets out of the way and any perception of G-d existence will get to my brain clearer. So the question comes up: what is the difference between a Tzadik reaching
Atzilut naturally and a naive, untrained Jew that takes a very large LSD dose looking for G-d? There are several important differences. Our naive Jew has no navigation tools to distinguish between getting closer to
Hashem, and the myriad of other possible destinations, so he could be an easy pray of dark forces. Another key issue is that the ratzo veshov
mechanism of his neshamah is very likely to be impaired by LSD, because
inhibitory mechanisms are impaired, so our LSD-propelled traveller would
lack the essential impulse in his/her neshama that is activated when
getting ever closer to Hashem, when it is imperative to come back, least
one gets completely melted in the light of the Kadosh Baru Hu. In that sense, LSD is very dangerous. Lastly, the Tzadik would be able to get close to Hashem in an harmonious and ever lasting fashion, the naive LSD traveller will lack any harmonious
rhythm that will guide his/her journey.
To some up: I would not take LSD to become an accomplished pianist. A
chasid invests in his/her avodah to refine his/her emotions and develop
the essential training to get close to Hashem naturally and frequently. In
cases of extreme emotional blockage, an LSD experience might open some gates, but it should be a last resource.

Be bracha and ahavah,
Eliezer Z.

EDWINA
12 years ago

sHALOM…reading thru your article, I felt a great sorrow that so many have decided to use acid for the ultimate experience! Reading the Torah and abiding by HaShems rules has brought
me into the awareness of Messiah Yahshua and the fullness of the Ruach HaKodesh along with gifts of the heavenly language! There is no greater high!! Shabbat Shalom!!

Shmuel Moshe
12 years ago

Reb Simon,

When two friends send me this piece and its my first time to your site, the hashgacha seems to push me to respond.

As another reader (seems to be a bunch of us) who tripped and saw the Dead way more than I could be proud of, I can say yes, yes and yes to your thoughts.

Yes. It does seem to be a gateway to spirituality.

Yes. You must handle those who come to you with love/respect when their paradigm is what/where it is.

And yes . . . oy, nebuch, that this was the way home. My brain is slower. My concentration weaker. Bemes, I have much simcha in my life. I am very gbentched: wife, children, rebbe, (order not to be evaluated please). But nebuch that it had to be this way. No glory in a lifestyle that is filled with so much shmutz (hamayveen yaveen).

The timing of your article is, for me, amazing hashgacha, as I take another step at removing the glory attached to a less than glorious past. Deadheads, chill out. I still love you. The music is still wonderful for me (though not during sfira), but life w/o Torah and Hashem, El-okay Yisroel is not a life of glory.

Must run. Much teshuva to do. I expect to be back to your beautiful site.

Love.

SM

Dick Snyder
12 years ago

Finally got around to reading your excellent essay. Your insight is superb.

I too found G-d in a pill, or was it a capsule, back in 1968. I was running on empty. My chemical experience opened my eyes wider than theyd ever been. It sent me off in all sorts of directions, some good and some bad, but if nohting else, it got me moving. The momentum never stopped.

Opportunities for enlightenment like the ones you offer today, did not exist for most of us back then, especially Jewish ones. The gulf between the Orthodox and the rest of us was like the distance between Earth and Mars. It has only been in the last 20 years or so that Jewish visionaries like yourself have come forward to reach out beyond their immediate communities to bring the rest of us in.

I applaud your efforts.

Dick Snyder
Denver

Tuvia Bolton
12 years ago

Dear Simon
Shalom Ubracha!
Thank you! This was good. Esp. bec. of my experience w/Learys anti Semitic blurt that eventually brought me to Judiasm.

But I dont think that LSD was a spiritual high, rather it was a spiritual trauma; a total ego dis/reorientation…. not unlike what coming face to face with anti Semitism does to some Jews (and did to me).

I think the only good thing about the 60s was that everyone was willing to do anything … even take LSD,,, to make a new world. Sort of an Ad Mosai dlumat zeh.
And LSD certainly provided the goods…..dlumat zeh.

Have a Shavoa Tov and Chodesh tov w/ Moshiach NOW!
Sincerely
Tuvia Bolton

L. C.-S.
12 years ago

Tayerer reb shimen,
I was curious to read this article, given the title appearing in my inbox. I lived through this period you speak of and witnessed a lot of drug taking by people I knew. All of those I still know grew up to be fairly responsible adults, but I dont know of any who attribute any greater spirituality to the drugs they took. I know it was a liberating experience in toto, and so many of us would have been different people if the drugs had not been a major factor in the youth culture of the late 60s and early 70s, but I havent had a single discussion about it which includes a revelation such as the young mans you write about. I do agree that LSD changed peoples outlook on the universe. From the inside it looked like a good thing, but from the outside, in retrospect, Im not sure what benefits the individuals I knew reaped from it. In general, I believe marijuana and LSD use did make for a kinder, more open population amongst our young people, un mir zaynen ale brider, but there are so many negatives attached to the concomitant drugs like heroin, speed and downs. Enough people I knew died of overdoses to make that addictive world repulsive to me. Some people were changed for the better and some definitely for the worse.

I do agree with your entire article and am glad to have read it. Thanks for making people think.

mit a yidishn grus,
L. C.-S.

RABBI C. W.
12 years ago

AFTER READING YOUR COLUMN I MUST SAY IT FEELS AS IF YOU ARE WALKING A TIGHTROPE BETWEEN VILIFYING LSD USE AND CONDONING IT.
AS WE LOOK TO WAYS TO SPIRITUALIZE OUR RELIGION ,MAYBE WE SHOULD LOOK TO ITS LEADERS.

I WAS A CHILD OF THE SIXTIES AND I HATE TO THINK ABOUT ALL OF THE FRIENDS I HAD THAT NEVER CAME BACK FROM TRIPS THEY TOOK. I THINK THAT THE CHANGES YOU TALK ABOUT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED ANY WAYS. WHEN OUR GENERATION LOOKED AROUND AND SAW THE COOKIE CUTTER SOCIETY WE HAD BECOME WHEN OUR PARENTS CAME BACK FROM WORLD WAR TWO-WE REALIZED THAT CHANGE WAS NEEDED NOT ANOTHER CHEVEROLET.

OUR RELIGIOUS LEADERS ALSO NEEDED CHANGE THEY HAD BECOME TRAPPED IN THE DOGMA OF JUDAISM BUT FAILED TO CAPTURE AND TEACH ANY OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF IT -MAYBE MANY OF THEM WERE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST MENTALITY -THINKING GD IS DEAD . BUT IN SHULS THROUGHOUT THE U.S. PRAYERS AND SERVICES WERE BEING DONE BY WROTE.

THEN THE SIXTIES CAME AND WE LOOKED AT WHAT WE HAD BECOME AND WE DIDNT LIKE WHAT WE SAW. IN OUR HOMES , IN OUR GOVERNMENTS, AND IN OUR RELIGION. THERE WAS AN AWAKENING AND A THIRST FOR MORE MEANING, I DISAGREE WITH YOU THAT THIS THIRST CAME FROM LSD—BUT RATHER FROM ECHAD, THA T PART OF US THAT IS ONE WITH GD AND THE UNIVERSE. IT CONNECTED WITH SINAI AND IT CONNECTED WITH ADOM -AND THAT NEED INSIDE EVERYONE TO HAVE MORE MEANING INTHEIR LIVES THAN A FANCY HOME AND A FANCY CAR–PRODDED US TO OPEN OUR SENSES TO THE UNIVERSE AND TRULY SEARCH FOR WAYS TO PERFECT OUR WORLD TO PERFORM TIKKUN OLAM AND TO EXPERIENCE THAT FEELING OF ECHAD
AGAIN THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTINUED WORK.

RABBI C. W.

12 years ago

B”H

LSD = LET’S START DAAVENING!

A guten erev shabbos!

Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld
12 years ago

Hi Reb Simon,
First of all, thanks for your weekly sermons. Without u and Yossi I would have to break my head during shachris every shabbos for something to share with my community.

About the fellow who told you his LSD story, how about this?

What if someone told you they were intoxicated or stoned by an isur in the Torah? A cheeseburger brought me back to Psukei Dzimrah! My friends wife taught me about the holiness of donning tzitzis etc. And it was portrayed in a fascinating heartfelt story.

What would the answer be? Is it now legal (permissible?)

His (albeit, harmless) method to get your class speechless came straight out of the PETA playbook. (Naïve American minds.)

Anyway…thanks for your emails.

Good Shabbos
Rabbi Eli Rosenfeld

Rabbi Jacobson Responds
12 years ago

Thank you for your kind words.

1) Is LSD an issur bTorah like the examples you bring?
2) Even in the instances you cite — through teshuvah one can be mhapech
zedonos to zochiyos, even treif etc., as explained in Tanya ch. 7. Bloshon
haGemora: Matzoyos shehitziyo bissur hitziyo bheter. As Chassidus
explains that through teshuvah you are podeh (redeem) the Divine spark that
was bound within the sholosh kelipos hatemayos. Obviously, this is not a
heter, and echtoh voshuv is absolutely prohibited. No one ever said that it
is legal and permissable, G-d forbid. We are talking here AFTER THE FACT —
as emphasized in the article. So this has nothing to do with being
heartfelt — its poshut halacha lmaaseh.
Im surprised that you didnt realize that.

Eli R.
12 years ago

You took me too seriously.

I was just commenting that, unfortunately, one could quiet a crowd with a hartzike story which stemmed even from an issur doraysa.

I understood your point….

Be good,

Eli R.

S. K.
12 years ago

Some time ago in Wellsprings, the better-known Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter published a poem touching on Moshiach. There are indeed many connections–and I thought this article was very good.

A little more…

I was very much a Deadhead (I guess my membership has not been revoked, either), and someone I was an enthusiastic LSD participant for a number of years. IN fact, as I usually mention when I talk at various Chabad locations, my interest in reading the Bible was piqued by reading an article by Ken Kesey (read Tom Wolfes The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test) on the great value he had found in regular Bible reading–and that all led in a direct line to engagement with the sources of Yiddishkeit and Chassidus (Kesey also was a tremendous admirer of Martin Buber and wrote with relish about Chassidic stories he had heard through him–which had me primed and ready when I met Yitzchak Ginsburgh in Jerusalem 35 years ago to respond positively to his invitation to come visit for a Shabbos).

When I had already committed myself to Yiddishkeit much more deeply and was in Boston, davvening at Krinskys shteibel and pursuing an advanced degree at Brandeis, Rav Steinsaltz came to Brandeis. I had joined one of his Chassidus classes in Jerusalem several years before and wanted to hear him. The format was unusual–he would respond to questions from a Conservative rabbi who was a Hillel rabbi and someone who had established a connection with R Steinsaltz back in the Sixties. The Hillel rabbi asked the Rav–Back then when I asked you for an important book to read to deepen my understanding of Judaism, you recommended I read Aldous Huxleys The Doors of Perception. Why?

Now that book was written by Huxley about his experiences on mescaline, a drug similar though not usually as strong as LSD. It is quite a decent meditation on the subject and gives a good feeling about what it is all about.

R Steinsaltz replied: I recommended that because I knew your conception of Judaism wasnt even in the right ball park. It is not about anything so much as changing consciousness, and that is probably the last thing you would imagine from American synagogue life (such as it was then and still is in many places).

Kol tuv,
S. K.

SW
12 years ago

Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and many others didn’t need LSD or other drugs in order to make predictions of future technologies. I think that attributing a paradigm shift in thinking to LSD is at least simplistic, and probably incorrect.
Regards,
SW

Rabbi Jacobson Responds
12 years ago

Neither was LSD needed by Einstein, Da Vinci, Mozart and all the artistic geniuses through the ages who pioneered breathtaking breakthroughs (though we dont always know what if any foreign substances any one of them may have used).

And of course, lhavdil, the Alter Rebbe and all the Rebbeim did not need any external substance to introduce their unique contributions.

Bottom line: One doesnt need any unnatural means to induce spiritual awareness. Yet, there is no doubt that in the 60s a revolution took place amongst the young, and this revolution was around drugs, sexuality, music, Far Eastern thought, etc. For all its faults, it opened up new unprecedented opportunities. Indeed, the Rebbe was a major advocate of this youth rebellion and saw in it the spiritual hunger of the young, rebelling against the status quo of the establishment. The Rebbe clearly knew that this revolution was related to the mass use of drugs etc. Yet, this does not invalidate the hunger, and actually compels us to reach to the young and bring them G-dliness. In 1979 for example the Rebbe encouraged the need to offer TM without any of its idolatrous undertones.

So, though many great breakthroughs were envisioned by visionaries with no need for LSD or any other substance, yet the argument can be made — hardly simplistic — that LSD and its counterparts (psychedelic, Zen Buddhism etc.) which helped create the counterculture affected a critical mass, which in turn contributed to the climate of changes to come and to the receptivity to these changes. Were not talking about LSD per se, but about the entire spirit and youth revolution of the times.