Here's some rare footage of an experimental LSD session that I came across doing research for my next book, a group biography of British writer Aldous Huxley, philosopher Gerald Heard, and Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. It's from a television program, circa 1956, about mental health issues.
The researcher, Dr. Sidney Cohen, was dosing volunteers at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Los Angeles. Aldous Huxley, who first tried mescaline in 1953 and wrote about it in his seminal book, The Doors of Perception, got Gerald Heard interested in the spiritual potential of psychedelic drugs.
Heard then turned on Bill Wilson, guiding him on an LSD trip supervised by Dr. Cohen in the summer of 1956 -- perhaps in the same room we see in this video. Wilson, who started AA in the 1930s, thought LSD could help alcoholics have the "spiritual awakening" that is such an important part of the twelve-step recovery program he popularized.
Heard and Huxley set the stage for better-known psychedelic research of Timothy Leary, Richard "Ram Dass" Alpert, Huston Smith and Andrew Weil, who are profiled in my 2010 book, The Harvard Psychedelic Club. WATCH: