Before LSD became infamous as a psychedelic in the late 1960s, it had an earlier career as a psychotomimetic—a drug which could produce a "model psychosis" or "artificial schizophrenia." This paper focuses on the use of LSD in psychiatry in this often overshadowed period. I examine experiments that use LSD as a prosthetic tool to produce "disability immersion" experiences of schizophrenia in people without psychiatric symptoms or diagnoses. This use of LSD reversed the traditional way drugs circulate in psychiatry: instead of patients receiving mind-altering medication to ameliorate disabling psychiatric symptoms, mental health professionals took LSD to temporarily disable their normal cognition. Despite the problematic nature of disability immersion experiences in general and the negative valence often attached to mental illness in these accounts, these trips into madness produced, I will argue, positive therapeutic insights, perhaps best illustrated by architect Kiyo Izumi's LSD-inspired design for Yorkton Psychiatric Centre.
Before LSD became known as a psychedelic, it was a "psychotomimetic": a drug believed to produce an "artificial schizophrenia" or model psychosis (Osmond and Smythies 314). In this essay, I examine the early use of LSD by mental health professionals and other non-patients to access extraordinary states of mind, such as disordered visual perceptions, thought to be associated with schizophrenia. Although human-subject LSD experiments were initially designed to better understand the cognitive and perceptual impairments of schizophrenia, an unintended secondary therapeutic effect of this research quickly emerged. Participants in LSD trials were changed by this experience, and often left with a new-found sense of empathy for people with mental illnesses. In these cases, LSD functioned as a prosthetic tool that produced what might be described as a disability immersion experience of schizophrenia for neurotypical people.
The title of this essay intentionally abbreviates the term psychotomimetic into psychomimesis in order to retain the some of the original medical meaning of the term, but also to alienate my discussion from a too strict adherence to that particular context. By psychomimesis, I mean any mediated simulation, imitation, or representation of psychosis or extraordinary states of mind. These simulations can be mediated by pharmaceutical technologies, such as LSD and mescaline. Psychomimesis can also be produced through literature, art, scientific writing, and a wide variety of communication technologies, such as the photo essays and written accounts that later describe the psychotomimetic effects of LSD for a general audience, which I discuss later.
In this essay I briefly trace the early history of LSD research from Albert Hofmann's discovery of LSD's psychoactive effects in 1943 to the human subject experiments led by Humphry Osmond beginning in the 1950s, including architect Kiyo Izumi's LSD-inspired design for Yorkton Psychiatric Centre. I conclude the essay with a discussion of the problematic and contested nature of disability immersion experiences today, including an analysis of Janssen Pharmaceutical's Mindstorm, a 4-D film simulation of schizophrenia. By recounting these events and juxtaposing these contemporary examples, I hope to recover a lost history of LSD and schizophrenia, one that complicates our current understanding of the value of disability simulations for disability and madness studies scholars.
The Discovery of LSD Hallucinations
The accidental discovery of LSD's psychotomimetic effects in April 1943 has already entered the folklore of the drug, yet bears revisiting here in the context of the drug's career as a psychotomimetic. As he describes in LSD, My Problem Child, one Friday afternoon at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, Switzerland, chemist Albert Hofmann had to leave work early: he was feeling dizzy and restless. "At home," Hofmann writes, "I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated-like dream 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 some two hours this condition faded away" (11). Hofmann tentatively attributed this "bizarre experience" to the substance, LSD-25, he was synthesizing in the lab that morning: perhaps, despite his careful work habits, a small amount had been absorbed through his skin (11).
That Hofmann was working with LSD-25 at all was a bit of a happenstance: synthesized five years earlier as a potential analeptic, or respiratory stimulant, the drug seemed to show little promise due to the restlessness it produced in lab animals, and it was shelved. But on a hunch that there might yet be some unknown properties of the drug, Hofmann decided to produce it again for further research. On Monday, when he returned to the lab, he tested his theory by experimenting on himself late that afternoon. His bicycle trip home is now legendary:
I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly. Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound, and I was just barely capable of asking my companion to summon our family doctor and request milk from the neighbors. (12)
Hofmann fears that he has poisoned himself—hence his request for the doctor and the milk. His neighbor, who has transformed into a "malevolent, insidious witch with a colored mask," brings the milk, and Hofmann drinks more than two liters in a desperate attempt to counteract the drug (12).
Even though Hofmann does experience some moments of euphoria later, it is important to note that his affective responses during this LSD experiment are profoundly negative, and that concepts of insanity and drug addiction are key lenses through which he understands this experience. He writes,
A demon had invaded me, had taken possession of my body, mind, and soul. I jumped up and screamed, trying to free myself from him, but then sank down again and lay helpless on the sofa. The substance, with which I had wanted to experiment, had vanquished me. It was the demon that scornfully triumphed over my will. I was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane. (12)
This notion of being taken over by a demon substance echoes a well-established tradition of temperance movement and anti-drug rhetoric ("demon rum," for example), and his predicament here is also reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein's and Dr. Jekyll's self-inflicted destruction which began in their laboratories: "Another reflection took shape, an idea full of bitter irony: if I was forced to leave this world prematurely, it was because of this lysergic acid diethylamide that I myself had brought forth into the world" (12). As he contemplates his potential death, Hofmann also worries that his family might think that his fatal experiment was a result of scientific hubris: "Would they ever understand that I had not experimented thoughtlessly, irresponsibly, but rather with the utmost caution, and that such a result was in no way foreseeable?" (12).
Hofmann's experiment with LSD is unquestionably traumatic; it is, furthermore, both a medical and family crisis, primarily due to this perceived threat of insanity. Even though his vital signs are normal, his doctor recognizes his psychic distress and watches over him as he rests in bed. Meanwhile, after being told that her husband is "suffering a mysterious breakdown," Hofmann's wife rushes home, leaving their children with her parents in Lucerne (13). By the time she arrives, however, the crisis has passed: "Slowly I came back from a weird , unfamiliar world to reassuring everyday reality. The horror softened and gave way to a feeling of good fortune and gratitude, the more normal perceptions and thoughts returned, and I became more confident that the danger of insanity was conclusively past" (13). It is as this point that Hofmann closes his eyes and enjoys the hypnagogic visual images prompted by the LSD. By the next day, Hofmann even seems, to borrow a phrase from Carl Elliott, "better than well":
A sensation of well-being and renewed life flowed through me. Breakfast tasted delicious and gave me extraordinary pleasure. When I later walked out in to the garden, in which the sun shone now after a spring rain, everything glistened and sparkled in a fresh light. The world was as if newly created. All my senses vibrated in a condition of highest sensitivity, which persisted for the entire day. (13)
It bears repeating that even though these experiences are pleasant at this stage, the "dreadful fear of going insane" that this LSD experiment initially produced overrides any such pleasantries. In fact, in Hofmann's account, the sheer awfulness of the LSD experience seems to make the post-LSD world that much brighter: it is the return to "normal perceptions and thoughts" and the distance from the threat of insanity that gives Hofmann special comfort (13).
Psycho-Tourism: "Step into the World of the Insane"
Early applications of LSD in human-subject research were very much in keeping with Hofmann's initial experiences— LSD use and insanity had what seemed to be at the time obvious connections. And in the 1950s LSD research flourished, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. As Erika Dyck explains in Psychedelic Psychiatry, Saskatchewan became a center for LSD research, in large part due to the leadership of psychiatrist Humphry Osmond. 1 Osmond moved to Canada after beginning research on schizophrenia and mescaline with his colleague John Smythies in England. In their essay, "Schizophrenia: A New Approach" (1952), Osmond and Smythies proposed that the brains of people with schizophrenia produced something they provisionally called M-substance. Noting that the chemical composition of mescaline was similar to that of adrenaline, they suggested that a metabolic error in the methylation of adrenaline in the brain might result in the production of M-substance, a naturally-produced psychotic. Thus Osmond and Smythies formulated one of the earliest biochemical theories of the cause of schizophrenia.
Osmond and Symthies' "Schizophrenia: A New Approach" is also significant in that it implicitly promotes the use of mescaline to produce a "synthetic illness" or an "artificial psychosis" to aid in understanding schizophrenia. They furthermore acknowledge the long history of professional self-experimentation with the drug: "It has been taken for years by psychiatrists who wish to experience schizophrenic symptoms" (311). While Osmond and Smythies express a preference here for mescaline in biochemical research, they also mention LSD as a newer, potentially productive psychotomimetic. Once Osmond moved to Saskatchewan, he began more extensive research using LSD, which was significantly more potent and also easier to obtain than mescaline.
LSD research into schizophrenia was heralded as ground-breaking in the popular media at this time. For example, "Help for the Living Dead," a 1955 Saturday Evening Post article, depicts and describes this early research to a general, non-scientific audience. 2 As the caption of one photograph reads, "At the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Charles Savage gives Wilner Wedel, a volunteer, a shot of the new drug, LSD. LSD produces a form of artificial schizophrenia, making it possible for a normal man or woman to explore the strange domain of the mentally ill, and return to tell what it's like" (Yoder 43). This notion of travelling to a "strange domain" both anticipates the later "trip" and "tripping" metaphors associated with recreational LSD use and is also a common conceit used to describe the experience of having schizophrenia at this time (which was often described as a retreat from reality). As the writer of this article explains, "by taking minute amounts of LSD, experimenters are now able to explore the terrible country of the insane on a round-trip ticket which gets them back to normal in a few hours. It is not an excursion you would want to take, but several hundred men and women have taken it, in the interests of science" (Yoder 64, 66). The "normal" subject on LSD has, therefore, a disability immersion experience; it is believed to be a form of psychiatric travel or psycho-tourism of severe mental illness. The "realm" of schizophrenia, as both the sudden onset of the illness and LSD experiments suggested to these observers, has dangerously permeable boundaries. "Schizophrenia," this reporter writes, "is a terrible country with no fixed borders" (Yoder 71).
Another contemporary article, "Step into the World of the Insane," describes LSD research and schizophrenia in almost the same terms: "With a new drug to unlock the door, scientists are entering at will the benighted land where the insane dwell, [sic] experience the sights, sounds and emotions that plague schizophrenia's victims" (Goldenson 30). Written by Hunter College psychology professor Robert Goldenson and published in Look magazine, which emphasized photography and visual storytelling, this article offered its readers a series of photographs that "simulate the sensations that a volunteer would experience on such a mad journey," including a disturbing full-page montage of threatening faces, and a photograph of a woman crouched in an attic, but wearing a very proper wool suit (30-35). In this photo/essay the psychologist functions as the expert guide and, together with the photographs, his description introduces the novice reader to the LSD/schizophrenia experience, as well as to the scientific significance of this research: since schizophrenia can be artificially produced via LSD, it may have a biochemical, physical basis, rather than being a neurosis.
Yet preceding these two articles we have the even more fascinating, groundbreaking participant-observer LSD account by journalist Sidney Katz, "My 12 Hours as a Madman." Based on his experience in an LSD schizophrenia experiment directed by Humphry Osmond, Katz's essay was published in Maclean's magazine in 1953 and was widely read with great interest. Like Albert Hofmann's initial discovery of the drug's effects, Katz's account stresses the horrors and transient pleasures of LSD and the identification of LSD with mental illness: "On the morning of Thursday, June 18, 1953, I swallowed a drug which, for twelve unforgettable hours, turned me into a madman. For twelve hours I inhabited a nightmare world in which I experienced the torments of hell and the ecstasies of heaven" (Katz). And like other accounts, Katz depicts his LSD use as a journey, an "excursion into madness" or a trip into a "nightmare world."
Katz's experience with LSD is, of course, heavily scripted. He takes LSD after being vetted for the experiment and has been told what to expect. While under LSD, Katz is constantly attended by members of Osmond's team who test him and question him at various stages of the experiment:
Q: Do you know who you are?
A: Sidney Katz.
Q: Do you know where you are?
A: The mental hospital in Weyburn.
Q: What are you undergoing?
A: It's an experiment with LSD.
Q: That's right. You came here to write a story.
Do you feel keen about doing this story?
A: (No answer.)
Q: Do you want to write this story?
A: (No answer.) (Katz)
Katz is, furthermore, explicitly reminded of the experiment's goals by the research team during his LSD intoxication:
Now Stefaniuk [the psychologist] handed me one of the cards of the Rorschach test … "We want to know why schizophrenics won't co-operate with us in Rorschach tests." I looked at the colored blots and could see that they had turned into thick enamel… . I could feel the enamel coating creeping up from my hands to my arms and down my body… . I quickly handed the card back to Stefaniuk and the sensation left me. I hadn't offered any explanation. "Schizophrenics won't co-operate in a Rorschach test and you won't either," Stefaniuk was saying. (Katz)
The expectations of LSD's effects combined with the researchers' understanding of the symptoms of schizophrenia structure Katz's experience. Katz is dependent on this context not simply conceptually, but in a way that seems visceral: "I was completely dependent on those around me to give me reassurance that I was not damned to the eternal hell of insanity. Had … I been left alone even for a minute to the mercies of my hallucinations, I am convinced that I would have perished from grief."
Notably, Katz comes out of his temporary immersion into disability with a strong sense of empathy for the hospital's patients. After he has fully recovered from his LSD intoxication, Katz again walks through the hospital ward with a new, more immediate awareness of others' psychic pain:
From the far end of the hall I could hear the terrible chant of a disturbed schizophrenic repeating over and over: "Burn, goddam body; burn goddam body, burn goddam legs, burn goddam belly, burn goddam body, burn goddam body …" What corner of hell did he inhabit? What terrors beset him? Fresh from my experiences of yesterday I could imagine what they might be, and imagining, wince from pain.
Katz concludes, "We should insist that our best doctors, technicians and laboratories be immediately sent to rescue the schizophrenic from his endless hell. No goal can be more urgent or humane. I know." Katz's intense feelings of empathy toward people with mental illness became a therapeutic hallmark of psychiatric self-experimentation with the drug during this period.
Schizophrenic by Design: Izumi's LSD-Inspired Yorkton Psychiatric Centre
The creation of the Yorkton Psychiatric Center is yet another example of how Osmond and his team promoted the use of LSD to engender empathy. In the mid 1950s architect Kiyo Izumi started working with an interdisciplinary group that included psychologists, sociologists, an anthropologist, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and other health care professionals to develop the design for the Yorkton Psychiatric Centre in Saskatchewan. Under the leadership of Osmond, Izumi had access to letters from ex-patients, as well as direct access to current patients. Izumi also took LSD several times, first in his own home with the help of experienced members of his team. "My next LSD experiences," Izumi writes, "were in situations that the mentally ill might face in a typical institution. These occurred at the University Hospital in Saskatoon, under the supervision of Dr. Abram Hoffer, and at the Saskatchewan Hospital, under the supervision of Dr. Humphry Osmond" (386). Izumi took LSD and then wandered the halls of the wards, interacting with patients. He writes, "I began to comprehend many of the patients' remarks and concerns. For example, how a room 'leaked' and a patient saw himself flowing away… . To be 'startled' by the monotony of one color" (387). Under LSD, Izumi also became acutely aware of the need for privacy and space:
It was important to be able to enter a space unobtrusively and easily, to be able to do this without the feeling of being on stage or of being observed, and to feel that you were not intruding on somebody else's psychic space. This latter feeling was particularly acute when passing another person or groups of people in a "hard" corridor. I felt that the corridor should be "soft," "absorbent," and even "resilient," so that it could bulge out where necessary to allow another person to pass. (387)
These insights were incorporated into his design, which was originally circular and recognizably sociopetal, providing a mixture of connected private, semi-private, and public spaces. 3 Regarding his design principles, Izumi writes:
I did not exercise the prerogatives of an architectural artist, since my LSD experiences had made me appreciate the significance of the perceived environment. I felt that the true "success" of the architectural design depended on the accuracy of my perception of how other people perceived. There were more periods of intense discussion, not only with my colleagues on the therapy team but also with the patients themselves. I found myself increasingly able to comprehend the patients, through their various ways of communicating. I am sure that those who have taken LSD in conjunction with the care and treatment of the mentally ill would concur that their ability to communicate with the patients was enhanced by their experiences. (389-90)
It is important to note here that Izumi did not assume that his LSD experience gave him complete and immediate insight into the needs of the patient. He continually worked to check his perceptions through "intense discussion" with both colleagues and patients.
Izumi's true ability to communicate with patients successfully and accurately is, of course, difficult to determine. However, anecdotes from both patients and non-patients suggest that the LSD experience could facilitate communication in the way Izumi describes. As Norma MacDonald, a former patient diagnosed with schizophrenia, writes, "One of the most encouraging things which has happened to me in recent years was the discovery that I could talk to normal people who had the experience of taking mescalin [sic] or lysergic acid, and they would accept the things I told them without asking stupid questions or withdrawing into a safe, smug world of disbelief"(MacDonald 221). "Schizophrenia is a lonely illness," MacDonald continues, "I have needed true friends to help me believe in myself, and friends are of great importance… .The discovery of LSD by those who work in the field of psychiatry has widened my circle of friends" (221). If nothing else, the LSD experience left Izumi even more receptive to this communication and seems to have heightened his concern for designing a space that would not augment the patients' psychic distress.
While the final building design of Yorkton Psychiatric Center may not appear very LSD-inspired—there are no "bulging" hallways, for example—Izumi remained committed to using his LSD experience to inform his design. He paid particular attention to architectural elements that might create or contribute to feelings of synesthesia and disorientation. He writes:
Heat, light, and sound sources were designed to avoid creating confusion, as many of these sources became indistinguishable to a patient who is experiencing perceptual changes and distortions. For example, air noise emanating from a grill beside a light source can be confusing and disturbing. For this reason, the combined fittings that are used quite commonly in commercial buildings were not used in the psychiatric hospital. In selecting illumination type and distribution, we tried to avoid creating silhouettes of faces and bodies … . We used no clocks or signs that might appear to be floating, insecure, or defying gravity. (391)
Izumi's emphasis on addressing the perceptual distortions and synaesthetic effects that patients experienced was in keeping with both his LSD experience and with Osmond's heavily visually-based conception of schizophrenia symptoms. (This is a notable contrast with the hallmark symptoms of schizophrenia as they are conceived of today: hearing voices and delusional thinking.) As Osmond admits, his thinking about schizophrenia has been significantly shaped by his reading of British landscape artist Thomas Hennell's The Witnesses, an account of Hennell's nervous breakdown and hospitalization in the 1930s: "The Witnesses," Osmond states, "is one of the finest accounts of a schizophrenic illness from the inside," and "it has borne a curious relationship to the researches which my colleagues and I have undertaken in the last fifteen years" (Osmond, "The Witnesses" 453). 4 In fact, Osmond's own early experiences with mescaline and his reading of Hennell's narrative worked in tandem to reinforce his conception of schizophrenia symptoms, which emphasized visual perceptual distortions. And Osmond explicitly links the insights of his early mescaline research in the 1950s to his earlier reading of Hennell's narrative in the 1940s: "the chance reading of a madman's story over twenty-one years ago became the beginning of an addiction, of a growing urge and need to pursue this mysterious illness, which dissolves as one comes closer into an infinitude of mysteries" ("The Witnesses" 462). 5
Like Katz, Izumi was deeply affected by his LSD experiences, which instilled within him both empathy and purpose. He writes:
It is too easy for most of us to ignore or to acknowledge superficially the fear, the anguish, and the excruciating psychological pain of a mentally ill person… . But to sit beside a patient who is transfixed upon seeing a noise or hearing an intense hotness, as a steam heating system suddenly activates itself through hidden pipes, and to participate in this "reality," is a convincing experience that reminds you forcefully of your responsibility as an architect. (394)
Whether Izumi ultimately succeeded in fulfilling this responsibility is arguable. Izumi was, after all, building a psychiatric hospital, a place that both symbolically and literally embodies the worst aspects of psychiatry for many consumers, survivors and ex-patients. Yet by using LSD, Izumi personally did go to extraordinary lengths in an effort to understand the experience of mental illness and to facilitate better communication with the patients he wished to serve. At the very least, this is a laudable effort.
Mindstorm: Pity, Empathy, and Disability Simulations
In general, disability immersion experiences are certainly not without their problematic qualities. For example, so-called "Disability Awareness Days" in middle schools and high schools, in which non-disabled students are blindfolded or placed in wheelchairs for a day, have been justifiably criticized by disability advocates. 6 Such exercises are moments of temporary trauma for the able-bodied, often emphasizing frustration with not being allowed to navigate the world in the usual way and even fostering pity for people with disabilities. The same critiques certainly apply to the use of LSD to mimic psychosis. Moreover, some research suggests that the use of psychoactive drugs like LSD and cannabis can contribute to the long-term development of psychosis, after the immediate effects of the drugs have worn off. 7 To be clear, I am not in any way advocating the use of LSD today to build empathy for people with mental illnesses.
However, I do want to suggest that the effort to empathize with people with mental illnesses is valuable, and should be encouraged. Despite the proliferation of psychiatric pharmaceuticals such as antidepressants and their use by a growing population, the stigma of living with a psychiatric diagnosis remains a powerful force that undermines the quality of life for people with mental illness. And the diagnosis of schizophrenia is, I would argue, the most maligned of all mental illness identity categories. The harmful association of schizophrenia and violence is reinforced by media accounts of events such as Jared Lee Loughner's attack of Congressional representative Gabrielle Giffords. While incidents in which people with schizophrenia are victims of violence, such as the horrific beating and death of Kelly Thomas, seem to be under-reported in comparison. 8 The stakes are high, and the need for a better understanding of severe mental illness in the population at large is clearly necessary.
Disability simulations are potentially one way to promote better understanding of and empathy for people with mental illnesses. And although the LSD model is truly not a desirable vehicle for creating this empathy, there are other models that may be more realistic and effective. The exhibit, Dialog in the Dark, is a current example of the progressive possibilities of disability immersion experiences, for both normate subjects and for people with disabilities. 9 In Dialog in the Dark, sighted visitors are given a cane and are led, by a visually-impaired or blind guide, through an unlit museum exhibit, through areas simulating parks, a grocery store, and a city street. The exhibit ends with a round table discussion, where the sighted visitors are encouraged to ask any questions they wish to the guide, whom they still cannot see. This exchange is truly the most potentially transformative part of the experience. The guide with the visual impairment is the expert; the visitors are the students, who are led both physically and then conceptually into the "realm" of blindness. Even though some visitors emerge still seemingly entrenched in the pity model—for example, one visitor tells others that you will leave "knowing just how blessed you truly are"—this is, nevertheless, disability awareness done right. 10
The disability immersion experiences of schizophrenia that are available today are rare, and the 4-D film, Mindstorm: A Virtual Hallucination, by Janssen Pharmaceuticals is notable both for its drug company provenance and for its uniqueness. Released in 2008, Mindstorm is regularly presented as an educational tool at conferences like the American Psychiatric Association annual conference in 2008, at Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) sessions for police officers, and at National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) conferences, both locally and nationally. Mindstorm is presented either in a small theater or in individual kiosks in which the viewer wears goggles, and the film is augmented by wind to simulate tactile senses, and scents to mimic olfactory hallucinations. The film, which is available on YouTube, shows a rather uneventful morning from the first-person perspective of a young adult white man with symptoms of schizophrenia. The camera shows us what he sees as he brushes his teeth, chooses his clothes, and makes coffee. Then suddenly as he awakes from a nap, he/we are harassed by voices, some which are clearly internal, and some which seem to come from a tv. The voices deliver a running commentary on his/our movements and are insulting and relentless. The coffee, which previously smelled appealing, now smells strangely chemical and seems to be boiling, even though it must be cold by now. A man delivers a "Poizzon" pizza, which roils like the coffee. The voices tell us not to eat it. The short film (about six and a half minutes) ends with a visit from a female caregiver who has ordered the pizza and who now brings groceries. She usurps the voices, and we hear only her words from this point on. Noticing the medication on the kitchen counter, she says, "Forget to take your medicine this morning? Wow. You know it's not good to miss a dose. Well, it's not too late to take it now. Let's get back on track." She opens the curtains to let in the sun, tells us to get outside and enjoy the day, and the virtual experience ends.
In conclusion, since the Mindstorm simulation is created by a pharmaceutical company to educate/market, the material regarding the medication is obviously self-serving. Yet what I want to highlight here is the very different emphasis on auditory hallucinations rather than visual, in contrast to LSD disability immersion experiences of schizophrenia in the 1950s, and the potential for different articulations of this experience. This different emphasis on the auditory has also been reflected in simulations created by people diagnosed with mental illness, namely Pat Deegan's "Hearing Voices Curriculum," and Arana Pearson's "Working with Voices." One can imagine a newer, more transformative disability immersion experience of mental illness, led by people who hear or have heard voices, which would fundamentally change the terms of psychomimesis as we now know it. A simulation that ends not with a directive given to a patient to stay on the medication track, but that instead gives the normate subject the tools to understand, empathize, and recognize our mutual responsibility to respect and care for one another.
Special thanks to Catherine J. Prendergast, whose comments on an early draft of this essay were extremely helpful and kept me on the right path. Thanks also to NYIT and my colleagues in the Department of English for supporting sabbatical release time to research this article.
- Brew-Parrish, Valerie. "The Wrong Message—Still." Ragged Edge Online. 9 August 2004. Web. 31 January 2012.
- "Death of Kelly Thomas." Wikipedia. 25 January 2012. Web. 31 January 2012.
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- Dyck, Erika. Psychedelic Psychiatry: LSD from Clinic to Campus. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2008. Print.
- Edginton, Barry. "Architecture as Therapy: A Case Study in the Phenomenology of Design." Journal of Design History 23.1 (2010): 83-97. Print.
- Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997.
- Garza, Ryan. "The Wheel Deal: Lapeer Area Students Use Wheelchairs as Part of Disability Awareness Day." The Flint Journal 20 November 2008. Web. 1 September 2011.
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- Huxley, Aldous. Letters of Aldous Huxley. Ed. Grover Smith. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. Print.
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- Katz, Sidney. "My 12 Hours as a Madman." Maclean's 1 October 1953, 9-11, 46-55. Rpt. Macleans.ca. Rogers Communications. N.p., 21 Sept. 2007. Web. 28 January 2012. Web.
- Kiger, Gary. "Disability Simulations: Logical, Methodological and Ethical Issues." Disability, Handicap and Society 7.1 (1992): 71-78. Print.
- MacDonald, Norma. "Living with Schizophrenia." Canadian Medical Association Journal 82 (23 Jan. 1960): 218-221. Print.
- Metzl, Jonathan. "Stop Blaming Insanity for Violence: As Tucson Fallout Continues, We Must Not Scapegoat Mentally Ill." Daily News 19 January 2011. Web. 31 January 2012.
- Mindstorm: A Virtual Hallucination. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, 2008. Film.
- Novak, Steven J. "LSD Before Leary: Sidney Cohen's Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research." Altering American Consciousness: The History of Alcohol and Drug Use in the United States, 1800-2000. Eds. Sarah W. Tracy and Caroline Jean Acker. Amherst: U of Mass P, 2004. 353-82. Print.
- Osmond, Humphry. "On Being Mad." Psychedelics: The Uses and Implications of Hallucinogenic Drugs. Eds. Bernard Aaronson and Humphry Osmond. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1970. 21-35. Print.
- —. "The Witnesses: A Schizophrenic Patient's Experience and Its Relevance to Psychiatry." International Journal of Parapsychology 8.3 (1966): 445-464. Print.
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- Pearson, Arana. "Working with Voices." Keepwell. N.d. Web. 31 January 2012.
- Woods, Angela. The Sublime Object of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia in Clinical and Cultural Theory. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
- Yoder, Robert M. "Help for the Living Dead." Saturday Evening Post 22 October 1955: 42+. Print.
Elizabeth J. Donaldson is Associate Professor of English at New York Institute of Technology, where she teaches courses in bioethics, literature and medicine, and speech. She has published essays on mental illness in film, antipsychiatry in Lauren Slater's memoirs, and physiognomy and madness in Jane Eyre, among other subjects. She has co-edited the special issue "Disability and Emotion" of the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies (2011) with Catherine Prendergast, and she has co-edited The Madwoman and the Blindman: Jane Eyre, Disability, Discourse (Ohio State University Press, 2012) with David Bolt and Julia Miele Rodas.
Dyck's Psychedelic Psychiatry is the definitive source for this history. Osmond, as some readers of Aldous Huxley may recall, is also credited with coining the term psychedelic in 1956. See letter #744 in Huxley's Letters for the beginning of this conversation: Huxley and Osmond, who first met in 1952, had a long correspondence that continued up until Huxley's death in 1963. Huxley's influential The Doors of Perception (1954) begins with several citations of Osmond's schizophrenia research and is based on a mescaline experience that Osmond facilitated.
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My discussion here owes much to Steven J. Novak's "LSD before Leary": in particular his footnoted references to Katz, Goldenson, and Yoder.
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See Edginton's "Architecture as Therapy" for a more detailed description of the principles of sociopetal design (89). Edginton also examines Izumi's use of LSD to create a "sympathetic embodiment" of patients diagnosed with schizophrenia (88).
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Whether or not Hennell actually had schizophrenia is arguable, of course. The very existence of schizophrenia as a legitimate diagnostic category is itself contested. At the very least one can say that diagnostic categories at this time tended to be looser than today (particularly regarding the distinction between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder), and that Osmond also tended to view psychotic experiences as schizophrenic. For example, regarding Clifford Beers, one of the most well-known and active psychiatric survivors of the early 20th century, Osmond states, "Beers referred to his illness as being a manic-depressive one, but this may have been a piece of necessary self deception, brought about by the extremely gloomy prognosis that it was customary to give to dementia praecox [schizophrenia] in those days" ("On Being Mad" 22). Beers' mood disorder is well-documented, and is, I would argue, fairly obvious. Osmond's revision of Beers' diagnosis reflects the large scope of experiences Osmond tended to interpret as schizophrenic.
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Osmond's language here is also an example of what Angela Woods describes as the "schizophrenic sublime" in The Sublime Object of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia in Clinical and Cultural Theory.
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See Garza for an example of disability awareness day in public school. See Brew-Parrish and Kiger for critiques of disability awareness events and disability simulations.
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See Paperelli, et al for a helpful review of these studies and the theories of schizophrenia that underpin them.
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See Metzl for a critique of coverage of Loughner in the popular media. See also "Death of Kelly Thomas," Wikipedia.
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See Garland-Thomson (8) for an explanation of the term, "normate."
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See the Dialog in the Dark Atlanta exhibit promotional video for an example of this rhetoric: http://www.dialogtickets.com/atlanta/video.html.
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