This nOde last updated May 7th, 2003 and is permanently morphing…
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Oscar Janiger, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who “turned on” scores of artists, intellectuals and elite members of Hollywood’s entertainment community, including the late Cary Grant, to the psychedelic drug LSD in the 1950s and 1960s, has died at 83.
Janiger died on Tuesday of kidney and heart failure at Little Company of Mary Hospital in suburban Torrance, spokeswoman Laurie Hanley said. He maintained a therapy practice until just a few weeks before the end of his life.
From 1954 until 1962 — four years before LSD was declared illegal – – Janiger was one of the first researchers to probe the drug’s potential for enhancing intellect and creativity. He incorporated the drug into his therapy and handed it out to an estimated 1,000 volunteers including such luminaries as novelists Anais Nin and
Aldous Huxley, actors Cary Grant and Jack Nicholson, and conductor/composer Andre Previn .
Janiger often said he was particularly interested in artists’ ability to access a state of altered consciousnessin uniform conditions using this “creativity pill,” which he saw as a “marvelous instrument to learn more about the mind.”
Although his research predated that of Timothy Leary, it was never widely recognized because he never published his data.
Born in 1918 in New York, Janiger became interested in psychiatry at age 7 when, upon taking long walks in the country, he realized that his imagination could create a whole new cast of characters on the same long road each night.
“From then on when I’d get into situations, I’d determine what aspect that was within me was being projected outward, and what was a reflection of the world that others can validate along with me. That, of course, has been the theme of my work in therapy and as a scientist,” he said during a 1990 interview.
250 WORKS OF ART
Janiger received his MA in cell physiology from Columbia University. For a time he worked as a New York City high school teacher but got reprimanded for pasting stars on the classroom ceiling. He ultimately quit after being reprimanded again for bringing moldy bread, cheese and wine into the classroom to teach children about the advent of penicillin.
He went on to receive his MD from the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, where he served on the faculty in their Psychiatry Department for more than 20 years in addition to maintaining a private practice in Beverly Hills.
Unlike the LSD field tests conducted by the United States government, Janiger’s subjects were fully aware they were being given the drug and each paid $20 for a “hit” of “acid” which was made by a Swiss pharmaceutical firm.
Janiger gave his patients the LSD in a room that adjoined a garden in his office rather than hospital or prison settings that had typically been used in previous government tests. He personally took LSD 13 times and said that it helped him see that “many, many things were possible.”
About 70 of his patients took part in a creativity experiment in which he asked them to paint or draw an American Indian Kachina Doll before taking the LSD and then again one hour after taking it. Some 250 works of art were created during those sessions.
Affectionately nicknamed “Oz,” as in “wizard,” by his friends, Janiger’s interests were wide ranging. After LSD was outlawed in 1966 he remained an advocate of the drug but turned his attention to other research.
Among his many accomplishments he established a relationship between hormonal cycling and pre-menstrual depression in women, discovered blood proteins specific to male homosexuality, and determined through studies of the Huichol Indians in Mexico that centuries of peyote use do not cause chromosomal damage.
He is survived by a sister and two sons.
The very same kachina doll sits today on the mantle in Janiger’s living room, under a particularly stunning framed pair of before-and-after renderings of it. Painted by Fortune illustrator Frank Murdoch, the picture on the left is of draftsmanlike quality, a perfect “representational” image. Its acid-inspired twin couldn’t be more different – awhirl with color and asplash with motion, its planes and curves lurching in multiple directions. But it is recognizably the same kachina doll. And if anything, its colors more accurately capture the doll’s brilliant hues. (Janiger has saved all the pieces from the study, consistently declining offers from the artists to buy back their work. Several years ago, he mounted a successful gallery exhibition of the acid art.)
– John Whalen – Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies
James Coburn took 200 micrograms of LSD on December 10,1959 – his first trip. In his paperwork, he gave his reason for volunteering: “to gauge present consciousness (where I am to where I can possibly go).” Now 69 and still acting, Coburn looks back fondly on his session with Oscar Janiger. “It was phenomenal,” he says. “I loved it. LSD really woke me up to seeing the world with a depth of objectivity. Even though it was a subjective experience, it opened your mind to seeing things in new ways, in a new depth.” Coburn also credits his LSD session with helping him occupationally. “One of the great things about LSD is that it does stimulate your imagination. And it frees you from fears of certain kinds.”
Janiger envisions a place for LSD in our culture. He would like to see studies of LSD and other psychedelics “become fair-minded and at parity with other kinds of research,” and the fruits of suchresearch applied to “acceptable social and medical uses.” He cites the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece as a model for LSD’s potential place in our own society. For nearly 2,000 years, the Greeks participated in an annual ritual in the city of Eleusis, 22 kilometers west of Athens. In the secret ceremony, participants from all walks of life (Plato and Aristophanes, as well as slaves) imbibed a sacred drink called “kykeon” and then proceeded to experience what one ancient author described as “ineffable visions” that were “new, astonishing, inaccessible to rational cognition.” Says Janiger, “Those who underwent the mysteries came out at the other side, the sages tell us, as changed people who saw the world differently.” In short, the Golden Age of Greece may have also been a very psychedelic age.
After taking LSD in Oscar Janiger’s office, the writer Anais Nin developed her own theory about the drug’s effect on the creative impulse. She later incorporated her rough notes, which Janiger has saved in his plenary files, into an essay included in The Diary of Anais Nin. “I could find correlations [to the LSD imagery] all through my writing,” she wrote, “find the sources of the images in past dreams, in reading, in memories of travel, in actual experience, such as the one I had once in Paris when I was so exalted by life that I felt I was not touching the ground, I felt I was sliding a few inches away from the sidewalk. Therefore, I felt, the chemical did not reveal an unknown world. What it did was to shut out the quotidian world as an interference and leave you alone with your dreams and fantasies and memories. In this way it made it easier to gain access to the subconscious life.”
– L.A. Weekly article re: Cary Grant and psychedelics