Story of a pioneering therapist (now deceased) who used psychedelics
in his practice. Fascinating narrative/interview; early excitement
in the 50's, group and ceremonial uses, therapy techniques, various
compounds compared. Stan Grof, Albert Hofmann, Ann Shulgin, and
Sasha Shulgin also contribute. - Mind Books
These researchers saw the extraordinary benefits that LSD therapy
offered to their clients and decided not to sacrifice the well-being
of these people to scientifically unsubstantiated legislation. In
addition to the therapeutic value of psychedelics, they were also
aware of the entheogenic potential – of these substances – their
capacity to induce profound spiritual experiences. For this reason,
they understood their work with LSD to be not only therapeutic
practice, but also religious activity in the best sense of the word.
From this perspective, the legal sanctions against psychedelics
appeared to be not only unfounded and misguided, but also
represented a serious infringement of religious freedom.
Jacob painfully weighed the pros and cons and made the decision to
challenge the law, continue his work with psychedelics, and assume
personal responsibility for his activity. He has already passed the
judgment of his "family," the friends and clients whose
lives he has profoundly changed. They remember him with great love
and gratitude. It remains to be seen how he will be judged by
history. It is certainly wise to obey the laws if our primary
concern is personal safety and comfort. However, it often happens
that in retrospect, history places higher value on those individuals
who violated questionable laws of their time because of foresight
and high moral principles than those who had issued them for wrong
reasons. (Stanislav Grof, Prologue, page 16)
I FIRST MET JACOB, the man who is the subject of The Secret Chief
– I called him Adam Fisher in PIHKAL – in the early 1980s,
shortly after I met Sasha Shulgin. One of the great stories I heard
from Sasha was about this wonderful psychologist who had – for
many years – been guiding certain carefully selected clients
through psychedelic sessions. In the early 1970s, this elderly
gentleman decided to retire from his regular clinical practice. A
chemist friend of Sasha's had, at that time, just rediscovered a
drug which had been sitting on a German chemical company shelf, so
to speak, since its synthesis in 1912. She had tried it and reported
interesting effects to Sasha, who went into his own lab and made the
drug, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine – known as MDMA – and
tried the result in himself. He called Jacob and told him there was
a new drug that might be of interest to him, and shortly afterwards,
took it over to Jacob's little apartment.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Jacob postponed his
retirement, completely enraptured by the effects of MDMA on himself
and his patients. Over the next few years, he traveled around the
country, quietly training groups of therapists in the use of MDMA in
psychotherapy. He occasionally went to Europe to continue this work
among European psychologists and psychiatrists. He always insisted
that any therapist who intended to make use of this magic drug had
to try it in himself first. That has been the rule ever since,
whenever healers wish to make use of either MDMA – which is not a
psychedelic drug – or any of the true psychedelics in their
therapy. The therapists must know the effects of any such drugs in
themselves, before giving them to anyone else.
At his memorial, I asked one of his oldest friends whether she had
any idea as to how many people Jacob might have initiated over the
years in the use of psychedelics, and she replied, "Oh, I would
guess about four thousand, give or take a few." Rather
extraordinary, for a man in his seventies! (Ann Shulgin, Tribute to
Jacob, pages 17-18)
All of these drugs are integrated into tribal cultures and employed
as 'magical medicines' in a religious-ceremonial context. Their use
is in the hands of shamans or shamanesses, male or female
priest-doctors, where they manifest a beneficent action. They are
esteemed as sacred, and according to Indian belief, their misuse or
profanation is punished by the gods with insanity or death. (page
Jacob had obtained mostly excellent results from his
specially-developed techniques in the use of psychedelics, and he
realized that this therapeutic method should not be withheld from
sick people. His ethical obligation as a therapist, to help sick
people, took priority for him over obedience to a dubious official
prohibition. (Albert Hofmann, Foreword, page 23)
Jacob's life changed dramatically in the early 1960s, when he became
acquainted with the mind-altering substances LSD and mescaline.
These powerful drugs not only led him into a whole new area of
self-understanding, but he found them to be enormously effective in
helping his clients – so much so that he abandoned conventional
therapy to pursue the study and practice of using these new
Jacob made great personal progress, and at the same time learned a
good deal about how to use these chemicals effectively. He developed
many useful procedures and had a large following of clients wanting
to take advantage of this new, powerful means of therapy. In time,
Jacob not only was responsible for processing around three thousand
individuals, but he shared his experience in this new art with over
one hundred therapists. By the time these conversations were held,
he was responsible probably more than any other individual alive for
introducing individual clients and therapists to the benefits and
procedures of effectively using mind-altering substances in personal
My purpose in interviewing Jacob was to become familiar with the
practices he had developed. There were many of us who believed that
his valuable techniques should be published and made available to
other researchers and for posterity. One huge, giant obstacle
confronted us: Most such substances had been placed in Schedule I of
the Federal government's Controlled Substances Act, making them
illegal to possess. So there was considerable risk of exposure in
making such information public.
Jacob agreed to transmit the information and have it on record, and
we agreed that we would decide later on its disposition. When the
information had been reduced to writing, Jacob decided that it was
too sensitive to be published, so it was set aside. Now that he is
no longer with us, and immune to whatever legal transgressions he
may have committed, it becomes possible to tell his story and
acknowledge the outstanding pioneering work that he accomplished.
Most of what follows is in Jacob's own words. I have done some
editing for the sake of clarity, and have arranged some discussions
in more logical progression. Also, appropriate fictitious names and
locations have been used with an eye to our repressive drug laws.
Many of the very promising substances Jacob worked with are in
Schedule I, making it exceedingly difficult to research their
beneficial uses. (pages 28-29)
[Jacob] I remember that the first thing I said was, "Why can't
it be like this always?" It was a very deep, emotional trip. He
asked me to bring some things along that were important to me, and I
brought my Torah. I have my own Torah in its ark. Someplace along
the line he was playing Kol Nidre, I think. He laid the Torah across
my chest and I immediately went into the lap of God. He and I were
One. That was (feeling strong emotion). I can't remember all the
different things. What happened was another thing I said out loud
– he copied down what I said out loud – I use tape recordings to
catch what people say – I said, "Jacob, if ever again you are
frightened you deserve the pain of the fear because you will have
forgotten that God is with you and protecting you all the
The space that I was in at the time that I tripped – I was just in
the beginning of the late forties – the 50 year crisis that people
have going into the second half of life. I see it more as the time
when you really get into the spiritual search. I was pretty damned
depressed and pretty well ridden with anxieties which are
characteristic of that stage. I was dissatisfied with myself,
dissatisfied with my work as an analyst. While I was aware of the
value of the work I was doing, I was more acutely aware of its
limitations. Having the people come in once a week – I never did
see people more often than once a week, maybe twice a week if they
were in a crisis – and talking and talking and having hit the
desert space, the dead space of life where nothing's happening. And
listening to them talking and talking, trying to get out of it
working with dreams and all that and nothing happening, and
realizing God-damn, Jacob, there's nothing you can do except wait
until life comes along and gives them a big kick in the ass and they
get going again. Nothing's going to happen from me except to be
there to listen and to support them.
Well I was in that kind of a space myself, not knowing what to do,
where to go. I could only do what I could do; I tried different
solutions, but they didn't work. I read books, I read about
spiritual things, about God and all that. I got value from it, but
it didn't get me out of where I was, actually.
One of the things on the trip that occurred to me was, Jacob, this
is the answer you've been looking for! If something like this can do
this to you, then – well, I don't know if I filled it out other
than saying well, my God, this can jar people loose, this can break
people through, this can do all kinds of things. Look what it's
doing for you. (pages 36-37)
Myron: Are there certain kinds of presenting problems which are a
factor, like certain kinds of difficulties that a person has that
make it a more difficult situation or is it more just a feel of the
Jacob: You see, the point of presenting symptoms, specific problems
that they want to have dealt with, doesn't come into the picture.
there are no symptoms, really. The just say, "I would like to
have this kind of experience because I want to grow, as so-and-so
has done. I want to get the kind of religious experience that can
come out of this thing. that's what I am looking for." (page
[Jacob] ... But you cannot trip and work with a therapist who hasn't
tripped and get any value out of it. You can't relate back and
forth. You can't trip as a patient and work with a therapist who has
not tripped because he has not had the experience and you cannot
relate to him about it. It ends up that I can only trip people who
are in therapy with a therapist who understands tripping and is
willing to refer.
Let me mention something about my original position when I first
started out. I had the traditional psychological or psychiatric
attitude towards this stuff. This is dangerous, this is bad, you
shouldn't do it, and anybody who does it is crazy, and all that kind
of stuff. That was my position in that regard.
There's no easy way to satori. You've got to work hard and you've
got to suffer. I was like the typical Christian who didn't have much
confidence in grace. Yet I knew what grace was. I did experience
grace many times. I had to overcome all of those prejudices first
before I could really explore honestly and openly. And of course my
first trip dispelled all my doubts. My own first trip. Since then
there was never any problem.
Myron: Would you care to say approximately how many therapists you
have provided the experience for?
Jacob: In all categories-psychiatrists, M.D.s, psychologists,
psychiatric social workers, transactional analysis people, all the
different schools that exist where people see patients whether
they're licensed or unlicensed, there's quite a spread of all of
them-altogether, a hundred and fifty. That's what comes to my mind.
It's over a period of fifteen years since I've been really doing it.
Myron: And these are all people who would have a practice of their
own where they would be counseling others.
Jacob: Right. People-helpers - that includes nurses, physical
therapists, people who are very important to other people. At times
I would get referrals from them.
Myron: Of the roughly 150 people-helpers you have worked with, how
many are actually psychiatrists and psychologists?
Jacob: I would say about one-fourth. The others are psychiatric
social workers, family counselors, professional helpers like that.
Myron: Well gosh, you've started a real significant movement here.
Jacob: (Laughs.) It extends very much around the world, really.
[Jacob] You see, again, a spiritual trip is what's involved here.
This I have to say - it's the only way I know how to talk about it -
what I do and even how I do it is not up to me. I'm guided. I can't
define that, I can't explain it. I know that that's true. If I
wasn't supposed to be doing this, and I've said this before, I
wouldn't be doing it. If God didn't want me to do it He would have
stopped me a long time ago. I have a lot of faith that that's true.
At the same time I keep a close eye on my integrity and my security.
Everybody else's security is bound up in mine. We're all in it
I definitely have suff ran down the street screaming? That
happened!! Paranoia! Everybody has it, I know, and I have it! If I
hadn't been doing this to be paranoid about, I'd be doing something
else to be paranoid. It's only since I've taken the Course in
Miracles that I've gotten over my guilt and my fears.
Many years and many times I'd be in much agony falling asleep, and
wake up in the morning and have it hit me. That's true. I've looked
at it and I've said, "Jacob, for Christ's sake what are you
exposing yourself to all this shit for? You don't need it."
Then I'd look and I'd say, "Look at the people. Look what's
happening to them." I'd say, "Is it worth it? Is it worth
going through all of this shit for that?" Inevitably I'd come
back with "Yeah, it's worth it." Especially at the end of
a weekend when I'd see what fantastic things have happened to these
people. I would say clearly to myself, "Jacob, it is worth it!
Whatever you have to go through. It's worth it to produce these
results!" (pages 60-61)
These are some of the things that I go over with them. The structure
is first. Structure is a very important thing, and what structure
is, is a set of agreements that I ask them to make with me. These
are the things that I ask them to agree to with me:
They will not leave the house where we're having the trip at
any time during the trip without prior clearance from me.
They agree that there will be no physical harm or violence to
themselves or to me or to anything else in the house.
Reiteration of the security requirement. They agree they will
not reveal to anybody else where and with whom they had this
trip without prior clearance from me, ever.
I ask them to agree - now if this is a woman or somebody gay -
I ask them to agree that there will be no sex taking place
between us. I'll explain the background for these agreements in
The last one I ask them to agree is that at any time during
the trip if anything is going on and I tell them to stop it,
stop doing it, and I make clear, "This is under structure;
it's not just a recommendation or suggestion," they agree
that they will stop it. Or if I tell them to do something and I
make clear it's under structure they agree that they will do it.
Okay. They've agreed to abide by this structure. I ask them to read
this, a late 17th century prayer. It's the only thing I've ever
found down through the years that really is the most suitable for
beginning a trip. I ask them to read it quietly to themselves once
and read it through a second time:
Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of thee;
Thou only knowest what I need;
Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself.
O Father, give to Thy child that which
he himself knows not how to ask.
I dare not ask either for crosses or for consolations;
I simply present myself before thee,
I open my heart to Thee.
Behold my needs which I know not myself;
see and do according to Thy tender mercy.
Smite, or heal; depress me or raise me up;
I adore all Thy purposes without knowing them;
I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice;
I yield myself to Thee: I would have no
other desire than to accomplish Thy will.
Teach me to pray.
Pray Thyself in me.
-Francois de Salignac Fenelon
Archbishop of Cambray, 1651-1715, AD
Myron: On the psychoactive list, would you put MDMA on that list
Jacob: Yes. That's Adam. Right. It's not a hallucinogen. The
hallucinogens give visions, colors, and new dimensions to all of the
senses, like hearing, vision, music - you know, music is a trip -
and that's for all three of those. Hallucinations are very
characteristic of course with eyes closed or eyes open, it doesn't
matter. That's what I meant when I said visions. In some ways,
people will say that they have a more spiritual trip on the
hallucinogens because they see very important visions, spiritual
visions in some sense to them. It's all an individual experience and
their own reaction to it. The most popular one for that is
psilocybin. It's a more spiritual trip. People will say that,
although they'll also say that it's a spiritual trip on mescaline
and acid. Now we'll go to the others, like MDA.
Myron: Just before we leave that, there's another thing. I don't
know if you've read much by Gerald Heard. He talks about analytical
thinking versus integral thinking, and with the hallucinogens, and
maybe this is what you're calling visions, too, somehow you seem to
jump up to a higher level of understanding where things seem to fall
into place and relatedness more clearly.
Jacob: Oh, yes. That happens definitely on the hallucinogenic trips.
Very clearly. That's part of the transformation.
Myron: Higher conceptualization?
Jacob: Conceptualization - most people would object to that, because
it's not a conceptual process.
Myron: Maybe realization.
Jacob: Realization. Experiencing in a new dimension. And, coming out
of a very deep level of feeling. I prefer feeling to emotion,
although emotions will accompany it. Crying and things. Again, the
word that I would use now is a realization of the truth. THE TRUTH.
God's truth. Not the one we think is truth. Not of the mind. It's of
the Self. The soul. Everything you see that you experience you
experience with a whole new configuration. (pages 87-88)
Robert is in his early forties, unmarried, and works as a
commissioned salesman. He first became drawn to psychedelics through
reading about them. After he participated in his first psychedelic
session, he continued with one experience per month for eleven
months. By the time of this interview he had completed seventy-five
to eighty psychedelic sessions, ten of these on his own. The
compounds which he has experienced include MDMA, ibogaine, LSD, LSD
with harmaline, peyote, mushrooms, MDA, and 2C-B.
When Robert became aware of a program that used psychedelics
therapeutically, he entered it. His sense of adventure played a part
in motivating him to participate. He was also motivated by his
yearning for an experience of God, feeling that this was an
important aspect of life that he was missing. ... (page 106)
... Three hours after the beginning of the session he had a profound
experience of God which he describes as the most joyous moment of
his life. A month later he was still happy, joyous, grateful, and
Robert attributes many of the positive changes in his life to his
psychedelic therapy. Of the benefits he reported, the most
outstanding has been that of profoundly experiencing God within
himself. Before he had these psychedelic experiences, Robert had
rejected Christianity and had no feeling for the existence of God.
He has since joined the Unity Church and attends services, which
have become the highlight of his week. He is now engrossed in
reading spiritual books, listening to music, looking at nature, with
gratitude at the beauty of the world welling out to God every day.
He has not undertaken any new formal education, but has greatly
increased his reading and study through the Unity Church. (pages
Susan is 34 and a freelance graphic artist. When she learned of the
program of psychedelic therapy, she immediately wished to
participate (3-1/2 years previous to this interview). She has had
approximately 40 experiences, about half of which were on her own.
She has used LSD, LSD and harmaline, MDA, MDMA, ibogaine, mescaline,
2C-B, and mushrooms. She entered this program looking for a booster
in life and to further develop the progress made through another
personal growth program. (page 109)
She took ibogaine and went through cycles of resentment, fear, anger
and sadness for hours and hours, over and over again. It wouldn't
stop. At the end of the day she sat up and decided that at least she
could get up and go to the bathroom. She suddenly experienced her
head filled with light. For the next half hour she felt like the
Buddha, a most beautiful experience. Her conclusion is that Mr.
Ibogaine does not let go of you until he is through with you.
During another ibogaine session, she thought knives were hidden
everywhere and she was filled with murderous thoughts. She saw Jesus
being crucified and finally drove in the nails herself. After hours
and hours of experiencing Christ crucified, she realized that Jesus
forgave her despite her abominable act, and that He also forgave
Judas. She then reached a sense of Cosmic Consciousness, One Mind
and the knowledge that God was real. (page 110)
Susan at first had a strong feeling that she had to help save the
world. Despite volunteering eight hours a day on top of an eight
hour job, she was compulsive and felt guilty that she was not doing
enough. She now feels that whatever you do makes a difference; what
is important is how you do it rather than what you do. She feels
that working on herself is making a contribution to the planet.
Since all minds are one, one day there will he enough clear minds to
achieve a mass world improvement.
Susan has had some incredible experiences of God, or the One Mind of
Cosmic Consciousness. Susan found that her own energy was
insignificant compared to that of God. She learned that if she was
stuck in an experience and was thrashing around, the answer was not
to go looking for God but to realize that God is inside and to come
from God. She has had some profound biblical-type experiences. The
implications of these experiences for herself are to remove her own
barriers and make decisions, take responsibility for herself, tell
the truth as far as she knows it, and to understand that being
willing is what frees one. (pages 112-113)
Dick is 33 and has been married nine years. He owns and operates a
stained glass business with his wife and another woman as partners.
He had used psychedelics previously to entering this program, but
mostly for recreation. His experiences were meaningless, had no
direction, and he got nothing from them. Dick had about ten
experiences before entering the program and has had ten to twelve
experiences subsequently, starting about one year before this
interview. Going through a non-drug personal growth program had
opened a crack in his structure, and his psychedelic sessions have
been a wedge to push him through to greater openness. He has used
ibogaine, mushrooms, harmaline, LSD, and MDMA. (pages 113)
... He has also had profound experiences of God which have increased
his sense of connectedness to others and all things. He has found
God and lost his fear of death. Dick was always aware of nature, but
in his first experiences he was able to notice just how aware he
was. He always saw the detail but now he sees God everywhere. He has
become less destructive to the environment and has cut out using
pesticides. Gardening and mowing the lawn are jobs that are a thrill
to do. He makes time for them even when he is pressed.
In the religious area, he used to think that the Catholic Church was
God, and had gone to seminary. He has found God and his
connectedness to the rest of reality in his psychedelic experiences.
He reported that during one ibogaine experience, he was scared
shitless. He left it in God's hands and was willing to feel whatever
emotions were coming up. He has symbolically died twice during
experiences. The result was loss of all fear of death.
Since beginning the psychedelic sessions, he has gone to glass
school and a communication workshop and has signed up for the Course
in Miracles. He has made a commitment to run in next year's
marathon. He had previously considered that running any distance was
ridiculous and used to make fun of his wife for running. He now
finds that when he gets tired running, he can pull energy in through
the palms of his hands. It is almost like having a session. (page
Sally is 29 years old and is married to Dick. She is a partner with
him and another woman in a stained glass business. She also does
some work in massage. She has been in the psychedelic therapy
program with Jacob for about one year, and has had ten to twelve
experiences over this time. The psychedelics she has used include
LSD, ibogaine, mushrooms, and MDMA.
Sally discovered in her first experience that life is about
expressing what she calls the Real Self, a concept which she had not
previously explored. After her first trip alone, it was very evident
to her that there was a Spirit, an entity higher than herself that
was part of her. She has found the psychedelic sessions helped her
to cut through the layers of unconsciousness that keep her from
realizing her true nature. (page 123)
She also notices a difference in the way she massages people. She
used to work Intently. Now she works more slowly and feels it is
much more healing. She puts herself in the place of being God, just
as in a psychedelic journey. She feels that by doing this it allows
her to connect more fully with her clients and their particular
needs. The change is wonderful. She feels that miracles really
happen with people on the massage table. Sally now views her massage
work as a means to communicate with the higher Self and to
contribute to the healing of her clients, whereas before her
psychedelic experiences she was just working with people's muscles.
Sally states that she now has more energy, a stronger ability to
focus, and greater healing ability. She claims that there is no
comparison between the way these things used to be and the way they
are now. She is absolutely clear that she can heal, not by doing the
healing but by being a conduit for healing. (pages 124-125)
... On one of her journeys she was very impressed upon hearing a
classical version of "Danny Boy." She discovered then that
she really likes singing. She saw the whole universe laid out before
her, and that she could do anything she wanted. When she asked what
she should do, God replied, "Sing." She started taking
singing lessons. Her husband reported that her voice has changed; it
has expanded and opened up and has a much better sound quality. One
interesting incident during an experience occurred when she was
singing; she noticed that insects landed on her. When she stopped
singing, they flew off. She has no explanation, but has good
retention of the event.
Through her psychedelic experiences, Sally has become more of a
spiritual person. After her first trip alone, it was very evident to
her that there was a Spirit, an entity higher than herself and that
was part of her. She finds that love is communication with God. Once
Sally had accepted this notion into her life she experienced an
immense respect for everyone in her life.
Sally finds ibogaine has the most lasting effect of all the
substances: It "really hangs in there," and it provides
much material to evaluate and gain insight from. On her last
ibogaine experience, it took her seven days to reenter her previous
state of consciousness. She became quite shaky by days four and
five, and was very upset. Then all of a sudden she was completely
back into life again. Overall, it was an excellent experience in
which she saw that everyone is connected to Spirit. This connection
was illustrated during the session by the image of a flame. Now when
she talks to people she directly addresses the light or spark which
resides within us all. Knowing this has allowed Sally to better
understand and more effectively communicate in her dealings with
people. (pages 126-127)