The Origins of the Word 'Psychedelic'

 

     Aldous Huxley initiated an exchange of letters with Humphry Osmond around 1953. Osmond was an English psychiatrist who had been working with mescaline and LSD for treating schizophrenia. Huxley asked Osmond for a dose of mescaline during their correspondence. Later in the year when Osmond travelled for a conference in the Los Angeles area he provided a dose of mescaline for Huxley and supervised the experience. The results from that night led to Huxley writing 'The Doors of Perception'. By 1956, Osmond was searching for a term to describe the experiences from these certain types of substances and contacted Huxley about the matter.

     Huxley wrote in a letter to Osmond:

"To make this mundane world sublime,
Take half a gram of phanerothyme"

     Osmond responded to Huxley with:

"To fathom Hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic"

     This was the first time the term psychedelic was used. Osmond combined the words psyche (mind, soul, spirit) and dēlos (clear, manifest) from the Greek language to properly describe the experiences from these substances. Psychedelic translates to mind manifesting. In 1957 Osmond presented 'A Review Of The Clinical Effects Of Psychotomimetic Agents' to the 'New York Acadamey of Sciences' where he proposed his idea for the term 'psychedelic' and also for the therapeutic uses of these substances, especially with the mentally ill.

Author: Jordan Bonneau

     If you want to learn more about Aldous Huxley and his philosophical writings, here are a few links provided for you below:

List of Publications by Aldous Huxley

The Law of Reversed Effort (The Backwards Law)

 © Copyright photo used with permission - Jordan Bonneau

© Copyright photo used with permission - Jordan Bonneau

To make this mundane world sublime,
Take half a gram of phanerothyme
— Aldous Huxley
To fathom Hell or soar angelic,
Just take a pinch of psychedelic
— Humphry Osmond