LSD, The CIA, & The Counterculture Of The 1960s: Martin Lee (1986, Audio. Mondo 2000 History Project Entry #6
Some time in 1986, I walked into Cody’s Books in Berkeley and saw a book on prominent display titled Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond by Martin Lee and Bruce Schlain. Containing an impulse to start dancing around the aisles, I grabbed a copy and bought it.
I think it’s fair to say that nothing fascinates psychedelic aficionados as much as the connection between acid and the US intelligence and military establishments during the 1950s and ’60s. For those who had profound and important experiences — and perhaps more to the point — for those who had subversive experiences that made them doubt the very existence of nation states and their borderlines amongst other antiestablishment insights, the notion that not only did the powerful view these substances as tools for war but that we all might be “useful idiots” in some psychologically and spiritually heightened Machiavellian war on consciousness was… yes… frightening, but even more, intriguing.
We were able to catch Martin Lee in San Francisco — who, at that time lived in Washington D.C. — while he was on his book tour. Jeff Mark aka Severe Tire Damage (“I was the one with the car”) and I had the pleasure of interviewing Marty over dinner.
As Queen Mu and I batted around ideas for an introduction to the q&a, it transpired that she was not wholly satisfied with what we had extracted from Marty about the possible conspiracies with nefarious sorts and we got on the phone with him.
That phone call was — as Mu was inclined to put it — utterly fascinating, and it did turn out that Lee harbored some suspicions that he hadn’t included in the book. This resulted in an introduction by Mu in which she wrote:
“In a recent telephone conversation, Marty continues to speculate — on the connections between Italian Fascist philosopher Julius Evola with his ‘spiritual warrior elite,’ Rene Guenon (the French Esotericist) and mescaline; on the reported fascination with psychedelics by Sartre, Maurice Merleau Ponti and Henri Michaux. The links are intriguing if difficult to pin down. Clearly though, by the 1930s, an awareness of hallucinogens had spread through artistic and literary circles in Berlin and other European capitals.
“All this merely contextualizes the real heavy-duty experimentation with psychedelics which Joseph Borkin stumbled on while researching The Crime and Punishment of I.G. Farben. A discovery which Borkin left out of the book was that I.G. Farben maintained, throughout the ’30s, a special secret division devoted to research on psychotomimetic agents. In Acid Dreams, Martin Lee detailed Nazi mind control experiments with mescaline carried out by Nazi doctors in Dachau. Here he raises the interesting point that LSD, first synthesized in 1938, actually fell into the ambit of I.G. Farben when they gobbled up Sandoz that same year. Curiouser and curiouser!”
This is a segment of the very long conversation between Martin Lee, R.U. Sirius and Jeff Mark and it involves a wide range of topics, including:
- The mystical implications of the LSD experience
- CIA, LSD and the counterculture in the 1960s
- Secret societies amongst the ruling elite
- Using psychoactive drugs as chemical weapons
The recording is a bit rough to hear in spots… but you can make out pretty much everything Marty says, and that’s the important part.
Listen to the audio now: