Humphry Osmond

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Humphry Osmond
Born (1917-07-01)1 July 1917
Surrey, England
Died 6 February 2004(2004-02-06) (aged 86)
Appleton, Wisconsin
Residence England, Canada, U.S.
Known for Psychedelic therapy, Socio-architecture theory
Spouse(s) Jane Roffey Osmond (1924-2009)
Scientific career
Fields Psychiatry and psychology

Humphry Fortescue Osmond (1 July 1917 – 6 February 2004) was an English psychiatrist who expatriated to Canada, then moved to work in the United States. He is known for inventing the word psychedelic and for his research into interesting and useful applications for psychedelic drugs. Osmond also explored aspects of the psychology of social environments, in particular how they influenced welfare or recovery in mental institutions.

Biography[edit]

Osmond was born in Surrey, England and educated at Haileybury.[1] As a young man, he worked for an architect and attended Guy's Hospital Medical School at King's College London. While active as a surgeon-lieutenant in the Navy during World War II, Osmond trained to become a psychiatrist.

Work with psychedelics[edit]

After the war, Osmond joined the psychiatric unit at St George's Hospital, London where he rose to become senior registrar. His time at the hospital was to prove pivotal in three respects, firstly it was where he met his wife Amy "Jane" Roffey who was working there as a nurse, secondly he met Dr John Smythies who was to become one of his major collaborators, and thirdly he first encountered the drugs that would become associated with his name (and his with theirs): LSD and mescaline. While researching the drugs at St George's, Osmond noticed that they produced similar effects to schizophrenia and he became convinced that the disease was caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. These ideas were not well received amongst the psychiatric community in London at the time.[2][3][4] In 1951, Osmond and Smythies moved to Saskatchewan, Canada to join the staff of the Weyburn Mental Hospital in the southeastern city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

At Weyburn, Osmond recruited a group of research psychologists to turn the hospital into a design-research laboratory. There, he conducted a wide variety of patient studies and observations using hallucinogenic drugs, collaborating with Abram Hoffer and others. In 1952, Osmond related the similarity of mescaline to adrenaline molecules, in a theory which implied that schizophrenia might be a form of self-intoxication caused by one's own body. He collected the biographies of recovered schizophrenics, and he held that psychiatrists can only understand the schizophrenic by understanding the rational way the mind makes sense of distorted perceptions. He pursued this idea with passion, exploring all avenues to gain insight into the shattered perceptions of schizophrenia, holding that the illness arises primarily from distortions of perception. Yet during the same period, Osmond became aware of the potential of psychedelics to foster mind-expanding and mystical experiences.

In 1953, English-born Aldous Huxley was long-since a renowned poet and playwright who, in his twenties, had gone on to achieve success and acclaim as a novelist and widely published essayist. He had lived in the U.S. for well over a decade and gained some experience screenwriting for Hollywood films. Huxley had initiated a correspondence with Osmond. In one letter, Huxley lamented that contemporary education seemed typically to have the unintended consequence of constricting the minds of the educated — close the minds of students, that is, to inspiration and to many things other than material success and consumerism. In their exchange of letters, Huxley asked Osmond if he would be kind enough to supply a dose of mescaline.[5]

In May of that year, Osmond traveled to the Los Angeles area for a conference and, while there, provided Huxley with the requested dose of mescaline and supervised the ensuing experience in the author's home neighborhood.[6] As a result of his experience, Huxley produced an enthusiastic book called The Doors of Perception, describing the look of the Hollywood Hills and his responses to artwork while under the influence. Osmond's name appears in four footnotes in the early pages of the book (in references to articles Osmond had written regarding medicinal use of hallucinogenic drugs).

Osmond was respected and trusted enough that in 1955 he was approached by Christopher Mayhew (later, Baron Mayhew), an English politician, and guided Mayhew through a mescaline trip that was filmed for broadcast by the BBC.[7]

Osmond and Abram Hoffer were taught a way to "maximize the LSD experience" by the influential layman Al Hubbard, who came to Weyburn. Thereafter they adopted some of Hubbard's methods.[8]

Humphry Osmond first proposed the term "psychedelic" at a meeting of the New York Academy of Sciences in 1956.[9] He said the word meant "mind manifesting" (from "mind", ψυχή (psyche), and "manifest", δήλος (delos)) and called it "clear, euphonious and uncontaminated by other associations." Huxley had sent Osmond a rhyme containing his own suggested invented word: "To make this trivial world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme" (θυμός (thymos) meaning 'spiritedness' in Ancient Greek.) Osmond countered with "To fathom Hell or soar angelic, just take a pinch of psychedelic"[10][11] (Alternative version: To fall in Hell or soar angelic / You'll need a pinch of psychedelic.[12]).

Osmond is also known for a study in the late 1950s in which he attempted to cure alcoholics with LSD. He claimed to have achieved a fifty-percent success rate. Osmond noticed that some drinkers were only able to give up drinking after an episode of delirium tremens and tried to replicate this state in patients through giving them high doses of the drug. This came to be known as the psychedelic treatment model, contrasted to the psycholytic model that used low doses to help release repressed material from the mind which it was hoped would help the psychotherapeutic process.[13] One of Osmond's patients during this time was Bill W., co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. However, what with the growing reputation for psychedelics' potential for enabling spiritual insight, rather than a delirium tremens type of experience, Bill W. hoped to recapture a mystical state of consciousness that he had experienced, years earlier, without a drug.[14]

Involvement with the Native American Church[edit]

Osmond participated in a Native American Church ceremony in which he ingested peyote, regarded by the Native Americans as sacred, not insanity inducing. His hosts were Plains Indians, members of the Red Pheasant Band, and the all-night ceremony took place near North Battleford (in the region of the South Saskatchewan River). Osmond published his report on the experience in Tomorrow magazine, Spring 1961. He reported details of the ceremony, the environment in which it took place, the effects of the peyote, the courtesy of his hosts, and his conjectures concerning the meaning for them of the experience and of the Native American Church.[15]

Other interests[edit]

Peripherally related to his interest in drug-assisted therapeutics, Osmond conducted research on the long-term effects of institutionalization. He had interpreted and described the peyote ceremony he'd experienced, with its tepee setting and its particular social pattern, in terms that drew attention to its contrast with the psychiatric institutions of his day. Osmond began a line of research into what he called "socio-architecture" to improve patient settings, coining the terms "sociofugal" and "sociopetal", starting Robert Sommer's career, and contributing to environmental psychology. (sociofugal refers to a grouping of people arranged so that each can maintain some privacy from the others, while sociopetal refers to a grouping of people arranged so that each can see and interact with the others.)

Osmond's interests included the application of Jung's Typology of personality to group dynamics. He and Richard Smoke developed refinements of Jung's typology and applied them to analysis of the presidents and other world figures. Osmond also studied parapsychology.

Later, Osmond became director of the Bureau of Research in Neurology and Psychiatry at the New Jersey Psychiatric Institute in Princeton, and then a professor of psychology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Dr. Osmond co-wrote eleven books and was widely published throughout his career.

Osmond died of cardiac arrhythmia in 2004.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Humphry Osmond obituary
  2. ^ Costandi, Moheb (September 2014). Looking Back: A brief history of psychedelic psychiatry. The Psychologist. Vol.27 (pp.714-715).
  3. ^ (16 Feb 2004). Dr Humphrey Osmond - Obituary. The Daily Telegraph
  4. ^ Kaplan, Robert M. [Humphry Fortescue Osmond (1917–2004), a radical and conventional psychiatrist: The transcendent years]. Journal of Medical Biography. 24(1) pps. 115–124
  5. ^ Nicholas Murray (2009). "Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual". p. 396.
  6. ^ Martin, Douglas. Friday, 22 August 2008 "Humphry Osmond, 86, Who Sought Medicinal Value in Psychedelic Drugs, Dies". New York: New York Times Retrieved 2014-02-14
  7. ^ http://sotcaa.org/hiddenarchive/mayhew01.html
  8. ^ Hoffer, Abram."Hoffer on Hubbard" excerpt from an interview with Abram Hoffer, PhD. on YouTube Retrieved 17 June 2014
  9. ^ "Journal of Altered States of Consciousness". Google Books. Baywood Publishing Company. 1979. p. 289. Retrieved 21 December 2016. Osmond appeared before the New York Academy of Sciences in April 1956 and read the paper in which he proposed the word [[wikt:psychedelic|]] (mind manifesting) to replace psychotomimetic ... 
  10. ^ Tanne, Janice Hopkins. "Humphry Osmond". BMJ: British Medical Journal. 328 (7441): 713. doi:10.1136/bmj.328.7441.713. PMC 381240Freely accessible. 
  11. ^ Murray, Nicholas 2003 Aldous Huxley: A Biography. Thomas Dunne ISBN 0312302371
  12. ^ "On Language By William Safire Psyche Delly Kimble Mead". The New York Times. June 14, 1981. Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  13. ^ Grob, Charles S. Psychiatric Research with Hallucinogens: What have we learned? Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness, Issue 3, 1994
  14. ^ Novak, Steven J (1997). "LSD before Leary: Sidney Cohen's Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research". Isis. 88: 87–110. doi:10.1086/383628. JSTOR 235827. 
  15. ^ Aaronson, Bernard, and Osmond, Humphry. Psychedelics: The Uses and Implications of Hallucinogenic Drugs. 1970. Anchor Books. Double Day and Company, Inc. Garden City, New York. Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 70-103788.

External links[edit]