Allen Ginsberg wrote his poem, “Lysergic Acid,” in San Francisco on this date in 1959, the day before his 33rd birthday. “Thank God I am not God!” he wrote. “Thank God I am not God!/But that I long for a Yes of Harmony to penetrate/ to every corner of the universe, under every condition whatsoever/ a Yes there Is… a Yes I Am… a Yes You Are… a We.” (To read the whole poem, click here.) Ginsberg had taken LSD for the first time at the first international conference on LSD therapy at the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute, chaired by Dr. Paul Hoch, who had been financed by the U.S. Army and the CIA to study the effects of psychotropic drugs on human behavior. (Hoch, who was not Jewish, later became New York State Commissioner for Mental Hygiene and actually lobotomized several patients while they were under the influence of LSD. “It is possible,” he once commented, “that a certain amount of brain damage is of therapeutic value.”) Ginsberg experienced both terror and ecstasy during his inaugural LSD trip, and became an outspoken advocate of psychedelic substances for therapeutic growth and spiritual awakening.
“I fear I owe you an apology, I have been reading a succession of pieces about the CIA involvement in the dope trade in Southeast Asia and I remember when you first suggested I look into this I thought you were full of beans. Indeed you were right.” —C.L. Sulzberger, editor of The New York Times, in a letter to Allen Ginsberg