Entheogens: Whats in a Name? The Untold History of …

Articles in this Series: 1) R. Gordon Wasson: The Man, the Legend, the Myth. Beginning a New History of Magic Mushrooms, Ethnomycology,and the Psychedelic Revolution. By Jan Irvin, May 13, 2012 2) How Darwin, Huxley, and the Esalen Institute launched the 2012 and psychedelic revolutions and began one of the largest mind control operations in history. Some brief notes. By Jan Irvin, August 28, 2012 3) Manufacturing the Deadhead: A Product of Social Engineering, by Joe Atwill and Jan Irvin, May 13, 2013 4) Entheogens: Whats in a Name? The Untold History of Psychedelic Spirituality, Social Control, and the CIA, by Jan Irvin, November 11, 2014 5) Spies in Academic Clothing: The Untold History of MKULTRA and the Counterculture And How the Intelligence Community Misleads the 99%, by Jan Irvin, May 13, 2015 PDF version: Download latest version v3.5 - Nov. 20, 2014

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Today there are many names for drug substances that we commonly refer to as hallucinogens, psychedelics, psychoactives, or entheogens, et al. But it hasnt always been that way. The study of the history and etymology of the words for these fascinating substances takes us, surprisingly, right into the heart of military intelligence, and what became the CIAs infamous MKULTRA mind control program, and reveals how the names themselves were used in marketing these substances to the public, and especially to the youth and countercultures.[1]

The official history has it that the CIA personnel involved in MKULTRA were just dupes, kind of stupid, and, by their egregious errors, the psychedelic revolution happened thwarting their efforts. The claim is that these substances got out of the CIAs control. Words like blowback and incompetence are often tossed around in such theories regarding the CIA and military intelligence, but without much, if any, supporting evidence.

Its almost impossible today to have a discussion regarding the actual documents and facts of MKULTRA and the psychedelic revolution without someone interrupting to inform you how it really happened even though most often they have never studied anything on the subject.

As we get started, I would like to propose that we question this idea of blowback: Who does it benefit to believe that it was all an accident and that the CIA and military intelligence were just dupes? Does it benefit you, or them? It might be uncomfortable for a moment for some of us to admit that maybe they (the agents) werent so stupid, and maybe we were the ones duped. Sometimes the best medicine is to just admit hey, you got me and laugh it off. For those of you whove heard these blowback theories and havent considered the possibility that the CIA created these movements intentionally, this article may be challenging for you, but stick with it, as it will be worth your while.

Now were ready. Because, defenses aside, a more honest, and less biased, inquiry into the history and facts reveals, startlingly, something quite different from the popular myths. This paper reveals, for the first time, how the opposite of the official history is true, and that the CIA did, in fact, create the psychedelic revolution and countercultures intentionally.

As Ill show in this article, the goal had changed and they wanted a name that would help sell these substances to the masses as sources of spiritual enlightenment rather than insanity. In their book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, we see doctors Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert explain:

Of course, the drug dose does not produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical key it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical the weather, the room's atmosphere; social feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science has made accessible.[2] Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, Richard Alpert

But what was the purpose of all of this? They state The nature of the experience depends almost entirely on set and setting. As well discover on this etymological trip, it was all about marketing the CIAs marketing regarding set and setting. Sound like a whacky conspiracy theory yet? As well soon discover, its not. The CIAs MKULTRA program was very real, was exposed before Congress in the Rockefeller and Church Commissions, and was all over the news media in the 1970s. But that was 40 years ago and this is now. So why should we care? Because much of the program wasnt revealed in the 1970s and persists to the present, and it affected just about everyone. It wasnt limited to just a few thousand victims of the CIAs secret human experiments. There were actually many more victims millions more. You may have been one of them.

As well see, this idea that the psychedelic revolution and counterculture were intentionally created affects most of us: the youth caught up in drug use, the parents, the anti-war movement, those involved in the psychedelic revolution or in politics; as well as artists, or people who use these substances for spirituality, or even anyone whos ever spoken the word psychedelic. It affects us because, as well see, thats what it was meant to do.

In the early years of research into these drugs, psychology researchers and military intelligence communities sometimes called them, aside from hallucinogen, by the name "psychotomimetic" which means psychosis mimicking. The word hallucinogen, to generate hallucinations, came just a few years before psychotomimetic. The same year that psychotomimetic was created we also saw the creation of the word psychedelic which means to manifest the mind. The last stage of this etymological evolution, as well see, was the word entheogen which means to generate god within. Well return to hallucinogen and these other words in the course of our journey.

While these words may have told what these substances do in the intelligence communitys collective understanding, accurate or not, they are loaded with implications. Suggestibility, otherwise known as set and setting, is one of them. The study of the history of these words, their etymology, reveals how MKULTRA researchers covered up and kept covered up until now that is this aspect of the MKULTRA mind control program.

In the 1950s most CIA candidates and agents were required to take psychedelic or hallucinogenic drugs to prepare them for chemical and biological warfare attack. This requirement didn't turn the agency into hippies. As this article will show, marketing and PR people that the Agency later hired created that end result.

19 November 1953


The Medical Office commented also on the draft memorandum to DCI from Director of Security, subject: Project Experimental Project Utilizing Trainee Volunteers; to the effect that it was recommended the program not be confined merely to male volunteer trainee personnel but that the field of selection be broadened to include all components of the Agency and recommended that the subject memorandum be changed as appropriate to the broadening of such scope. The Project committee verbally concurred in this recommendation. [][3] ~ CIA MKULTRA files

As Jay Stevens, author of Storming Heaven, reveals in the following quote, suggestibility plays a large part in the way psychedelic drugs work.

To drive someone crazy with LSD was no great accomplishment, particularly if you told the person he was taking a psychotomimetic and you gave it to him in one of those pastel hospital cells with a grim nurse standing by scribbling notes.[4] ~Jay Stevens

Psychotomimetic (psychosis mimicking) is a word loaded with implications, suggestibility being the most important.

This is something that Aldous Huxley, Dr. Timothy Leary, R. Gordon Wasson and others made clear in their books and articles. In order to suggest what the creators of the psychedelic revolution wanted, they had to pay particular attention to the name(s) used for these substances.

What's in a name? ... Answer, practically everything.[5] ~ Aldous Huxley

However, for marketing and PR purposes, the word psychotomimetic was abandoned, or remarketed, not long after it was created in 1957.

But why is all of this important?

As Huxley just admitted above: What's in a name? ... Answer, practically everything.

Insanity, or psychosis mimicking, or even generating hallucinations, arent attractive terms and dont work well for marketing purposes or for the outcome of the psychedelic or, more importantly, the entheogenic experience.

Though this may sound implausible at first, the purpose of making these substances more attractive was to intentionally sell them, and not just to patients in hospital wards and to those in a chair with their therapists, but, especially, to the youth and countercultures of the world a nefarious purpose indeed. Here Leary reflects on Arthur Koestlers work regarding juvenilization:

From Koestler I learned about juvenilization, the theory that evolution occurs not in the adult (final form) of a species but in juveniles, larvals, adolescents, pre-adults. The practical conclusion: if you want to bring about mutations in a species, work with the young. Koestlers teaching about paedomorphosis prepared me to understand the genetic implications of the 1960s youth movement and its rejection of the old culture.[6] ~ Timothy Leary

The understanding of suggestibility, or set and setting, including the name given these substances, is everything in how psychedelics work and were studied (and used) by the CIA for social control.

What could the name be replaced with? This was the problem set before those interested in remarketing these substances to the youth, counterculture and artists around the world. When discussing how to market these drugs with Humphry Osmond, Aldous Huxley remarked:

About a name for these drugs - what a problem![7] ~ Aldous Huxley

Over a couple decades this project would be undertaken by two different teams: Aldous Huxley, Humphry Osmond and Abram Hoffer; and the second, headed by Professor Carl A. P. Ruck of Boston University, included R. Gordon Wasson, and also Jonathan Ott, Jeremy Bigwood and Daniel Staples.

Some of us formed a committee under the Chairmanship of Carl Ruck to devise a new word for the potions that held Antiquity in awe. After trying out a number of words he came up with entheogen, god generated within, which his committee unanimously adopted[].[8] ~ Gordon Wasson

And though they defend them, Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain reveal some of these remarketing tactics in Acid Dreams:

The scientist who directly oversaw this research project was Dr. Paul Hoch, an early advocate of the theory that LSD and other hallucinogens were essentially psychosis-producing drugs. In succeeding years Hoch performed a number of bizarre experiments for the army while also serving as a CIA consultant. Intraspinal injections of mescaline and LSD were administered to psychiatric patients, causing an "immediate, massive, and almost shocklike picture with higher doses."

Aftereffects ("generalized discomfort," "withdrawal," "oddness," and "unreality feelings") lingered for two to three days following the injections. Hoch, who later became New York State Commissioner for Mental Hygiene, also gave LSD to psychiatric patients and then lobotomized them in order to compare the effects of acid before and after psychosurgery. ("It is possible that a certain amount of brain damage is of therapeutic value," Hoch once stated.) In one experiment a hallucinogen was administered along with a local anesthetic and the subject was told to describe his visual experiences as surgeons removed chunks of his cerebral cortex.[9] ~ Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain

In the following quote the authors reveal their bias in the situation, arguing for the spiritual aspects, while in the same book denying the psychosis aspects and that the psychedelic revolution was intentionally created by the CIA:

Many other researchers, however, dismissed transcendental insight as either "happy psychosis" or a lot of nonsense. The knee-jerk reaction on the part of the psychotomimetic stalwarts was indicative of a deeply ingrained prejudice against certain varieties of experience. In advanced industrial societies paranormal" states of consciousness are readily disparaged as "abnormal" or pathological. Such attitudes, cultural as much as professional, played a crucial role in circumscribing the horizon of scientific investigation into hallucinogenic agents.[10] ~ Martin Lee and Bruce Shlain

Here Lee and Shlain resort to name calling and ridicule, for example referring to psychotomimetic stalwarts and deeply ingrained prejudice, as the foundation of their argument rather than looking at the evidence itself which sounds ironic in a book about the CIA using these same substances for mind control. And who were these psychotomimetic stalwarts? Was it only Dr. Hoch? As well see, Lee and Shlain seem to also be referring to Aldous Huxley, Humphry Osmond, Albert Hofmann and Sasha Shulgin.

Lee and Shlain, while partially exposing MKULTRA, then promote the idea that the psychotomimetic theory was invalid. They continue:

Despite widespread acknowledgment that the model psychosis concept had outlived its usefulness, the psychiatric orientation articulated by those of Dr. Hoch's persuasion prevailed in the end. When it came time to lay down their hand, the medical establishment and the media both "mimicked" the line that for years had been secretly promoted by the CIA and the militarythat hallucinogenic drugs were extremely dangerous because they drove people insane, and all this talk about creativity and personal growth was just a lot of hocus pocus. This perception of LSD governed the major policy decisions enacted by the FDA and the drug control apparatus in the years ahead.[11] [emphasis added] ~ Marty Lee and Bruce Shlain

Here we see the idea that the psychosis concept had outlived its usefulness. What does that mean exactly? Its an ambiguous statement. Most assume it to mean that the substances didnt actually create psychosis. But is that true? What if, instead, due to the above-mentioned suggestibility factor and set and setting, they decided to remarket these drugs as spiritual rather than psychotic? If we entertain this idea, we realize it could take just a new name to change not only everything about the outcome of the experience, but how quickly the youth and counterculture would adopt them. Well expand on this idea throughout this article.

On a side note, it should probably be mentioned that it was actually Timothy Leary and Arthur Kleps who went (along with Walter Bowart and Allen Ginsberg) before Congress in 1966 recommending regulation. You cant have a good youthful rebellion with legal substances!

Senator Dodd. Don't you think that the drug needs to be put under control and restriction?

Dr. LEARY. Pardon, sir.

Senator Dodd. Let me rephrase my question. Dont you feel that LSD should be put under some control, or restriction as to its use?

Dr. LEARY. Yes, sir.

Senator Dodd. As to its sale, its possession, and its use?

Dr. LEARY. I definitely do. In the first place, I think that the 1965 Drug Control Act, which this committee, I understand, sponsored, is the high water mark in such legislation.

Dr. Leary. Yes, sir. I agree completely with your bill, the 1965 Drug Control Act. I think this is---

Senator Dodd. That the Federal Government and the State governments ought to control it?

Dr. Leary. Exactly. I am in 100 percent agreement with the 1965 drug control bill.

Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts. So there shouldnt be---

Dr. Leary. I wish the States, I might add, would follow the wisdom of this committee and the Senate and Congress of the United States and follow your lead with exactly that kind of legislation.

Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts. So there should not be indiscriminate distribution of this drug should there?

Dr. Leary. I have never suggested that, sir. I have never urged anyone to take LSD. I have always deplored indiscriminate or unprepared use.[12]

As the University of Richmond website relates:

Leary was one of many experts who testified at the 1966 subcommittee hearings, which showed both ardent support and uncompromising opposition to LSD.[] Just several months after the subcommittee hearings, LSD was banned in California. By October 1968, possession of LSD was banned federally in the United States with the passage of the Staggers-Dodd Bill, marking a tremendous step towards the War On Drugs campaign that would arise in the 1970s.[13]

But who within the CIA had promoted this term psychotomimetic?

For a moment, lets turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, where, under the definition of psychotomimetic, it states:

psychotomimetic, a. and n.

A.A adj. Having an effect on the mind orig. likened to that of a psychotic state, with abnormal changes in thought, perception, and mood and a subjective feeling of an expansion of consciousness; of or pertaining to a drug with this effect.[14]

Under the quotations in the OED for psychotomimetic, we further see that R. W. Gerard is listed for 1955, and the second entry for 1957 is from Dr. Humphry Osmond:

1956 R. W. Gerard in Neuropharmacology: Trans. 2nd Conf., 1955 132 Let us at least agree to speak of so-called psychoses when we are dealing with them in animals. Along that same line, I have liked a term which I have been using latelypsychosomimeticfor these agents instead of schizophrenogenic. 1957 Neuropharmacology: Trans. 3rd Conf., 1956 205 (heading) Effects of psychosomimetic drugs in animals and man. 1957 H. Osmond in Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. LXVI. 417 The designation psychotomimetic agents for those drugs that mimic some of the mental aberrations that occur in the psychoses had been suggested by Ralph Gerard and seemed especially appropriate.[15] [emphasis added]

If we read the OED entry carefully, what we see above is that Gerard actually used the term psychosomimetic with an s, rather than psychotomimetic with a t. In fact, it appears from the OED that it was Osmond himself who was first to begin using the term psychotomimetic, which was also adopted by the CIA and military for their purposes. This same Osmond, as well soon discover, just months later created the name psychedelic for these substances. Notice that Osmond states The designation psychotomimetic agents [] seemed especially appropriate. That Osmond created the word psychotomimetic is a fact that Lee and Shlain seem to want to avoid.

In another interesting quote in the OED from 1970, we see none other than Sasha Shulgin referring to ibogaine as a psychotomimetic:

1970 A. T. Shulgin in D. H. Efron Psychotomimetic Drugs 25 Ibogaineis another example in the family of psychotomimetics, with complex structures and no resemblance to known metabolic materials.[16]

Was this a slip by authors Lee and Shlain revealing that Osmond and Shulgin were CIA?

It is true, in fact, that both worked for the government. While Shulgin worked for the DEA, he was also a member of the infamous Bohemian Club[17]; and as we'll see below, Osmond is revealed in the CIAs MKULTRA documents.[18] But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Well come back to this shortly.

In 1954, pre-dating the OEDs reference to Huxleys close friend Humphry Osmond, in The Doors of Perception Huxley stated:

Most takers of mescalin [sic] experience only the heavenly part of schizophrenia. The drug brings hell and purgatory only to those who have had a recent case of jaundice, or who suffer from periodical depressions or chronic anxiety.[19] ~ Aldous Huxley

He continued:

The schizophrenic is a soul not merely unregenerate, but desperately sick into the bargain. His sickness consists in the inability to take refuge from inner and outer reality (as the sane person habitually does) in the homemade universe of common sensethe strictly human world of useful notions, shared symbols and socially acceptable conventions. The schizophrenic is like a man permanently under the influence of mescaline[20] ~ Aldous Huxley

In Heaven and Hell Huxley went on:

Many schizophrenics have their times of heavenly happiness; but the fact that (unlike the mascalin [sic] taker) they do not know when, if ever, they will be permitted to return to the reassuring banality of everyday experience causes even heaven to seem appalling.[21] ~ Aldous Huxley

In their letters, Aldous Huxley and Humphry Osmond were very concerned over what to call these substances, but why should the public have cared what these two people wanted to call them? They were still mostly secret at this time and hardly anyone knew about them except through marketing efforts and publications. Furthermore, why were Huxley and Osmond so concerned, and why would it be a problem, unless there were an ulterior motive?

The issue here is a Bernaysian/Koestler-type marketing strategy. With a word like psychotomimetic these substances would have never taken hold in the youth and countercultures. It was fine for underground LSD and other studies by the intelligence community, but for the new purpose, theyd need a new name. From Huxleys letters in a book titled Moksha, we find:

740 North Kings Road, Los Angeles 46, Cal. 30 March, 1956

Dear Humphry,

Thank you for your letter, which I shall answer only briefly, since I look forward to talking to you at length in New York before very long. About a name for these drugs - what a problem! I have looked into Liddell and Scott and find that there is a verb phaneroein, "to make visible or manifest," and an adjective phaneros, meaning "manifest, open to sight, evident." The word is used in botany - phanerogam as opposed to cryptogam. Psychodetic (4) is something I don't quite get the hang of it. Is it an analogue of geodetic, geodesy? If so, it would mean mind-dividing, as geodesy means earth-dividing, from ge and daiein. Could you call these drugs psychophans? or phaneropsychic drugs? Or what about phanerothymes? Thymos means soul, in its primary usage, and is the equivalent of Latin animus. The word is euphonious and easy to pronounce; besides it has relatives in the jargon of psychology-e.g. cyclothyme. On the whole I think this is better than psychophan or phaneropsychic. []

Yours, Aldous

"To make this trivial world sublime,

Take half a gram of phanerothyme.

(4) Osmond had mentioned psychedelics, as a new name for mind-changing drugs to replace the term psychotomimetics. Huxley apparently misread the word as "psychodetics," hence his mystification. Osmond replied: "To fathom Hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

Huxley still did not get the spelling, which he made psychodelic [Smith's note]. Huxley invariably uses psychodelic for psychedelic, as he and others thought the latter term incorrect. Huxley's spelling has been retained, as this was undoubtedly his preference. However, it fails one criterion of Osmond, which is that the term be "uncontaminated by other associations."[22] [emphasis added]

Why was it important to meet the criterion for the new word to be uncontaminated by other associations? They dont say, but we can surmise that its because of this remarketing strategy and they needed to be careful of the term chosen. The word psychodelic contains psycho, but psycho carries negative associations. This explains why psychedelic is the only word in the English language to use psyche rather than psycho the criterion it failed was complete avoidance of any name that could imply a negative experience. Lee and Shlain in Acid Dreams give their version of the story thus:

The two men had been close friends ever since Huxley's initial mescaline experience, and they carried on a lively correspondence. At first Huxley proposed the word phanerothyme, which derived from roots relating to "spirit" or "soul." A letter to Osmond included the following couplet:

To make this trivial world sublime,

Take half a Gramme of phanerothyme.

To which Osmond responded:

To fathom hell or soar angelic

Just take a pinch of psychedelic.

And so it came to pass that the word psychedelic was coined. Osmond introduced it to the psychiatric establishment in 1957. Addressing a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences, he argued that hallucinogenic drugs did "much more" than mimic psychosis, and therefore an appropriate name must "include concepts of enriching the mind and enlarging the vision." He suggested a neutral term to replace psychotomimetic, and his choice was certainly vague enough. Literally translated, psychedelic means "mind-manifesting," implying that drugs of this category do not produce a predictable sequence of events but bring to the fore whatever is latent within the unconscious. Accordingly Osmond recognized that LSD could be a valuable tool for psychotherapy. This notion represented a marked departure from the military-medical paradigm, which held that every LSD experience was automatically an experimental psychosis.[23] ~ Marty Lee & Bruce Shlain

Its ironic that they claimed the term psychedelic, for mind manifesting is neutral. A more appropriate word to describe it would be ambiguous. But notice that its gone from mimicking psychosis to manifesting the mind. And just months earlier Osmond was promoting the word psychotomimetic, which he said seemed especially appropriate. Here Lee and Shlain admit that Albert Hofmann was involved with this public relations scheme:

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