The Substance: Albert Hoffman’s LSD (2011)

Introduction

The Substance: Albert Hofmann’s LSD is a 2011 documentary film directed by Martin Witz.

The film documents the coincidental discovery of the drug LSD by the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann in 1943.

Outline

In 1943, the year in which the first A-bomb was built, Albert Hofmann discovered LSD, a substance that was to become an A-bomb of the mind. Fractions of a milligram are enough to turn our framework of time and space upside down. The story of a drug – its discovery in the Basel chemistry lab, the first experiments by Albert Hofmann on himself, the 1950s experiments of the psychiatrists, the consciousness researchers, the artists. Could it actually be possible to find a path to the core of our human existence by means of a chemical? Spirituality at the flick of a switch? Do the enigmatic effects of this drug really help us to better understand the human soul? Could LSD be an instrument of contemporary psychiatry? Of modern brain research?

Production & Filming Details

  • Narrator(s): Trevor J. Roling (English), Hanspeter Muller (German), and Mario Scarabelli (Italian).
  • Director(s): Martin Witz.
  • Producer(s):
    • Elda Guidinetti … producer.
    • Peter Luisi … co-producer.
    • Andres Pfäffli … producer.
    • Carl-Ludwig Rettinger … co-producer.
  • Writer(s): Martin Witz.
  • Music: Marcel Vaid.
  • Cinematography: Pio Corradi and Patrick Lindenmaier.
  • Editor(s): Stefan Kalin.
  • Production:
    • Ventura Film (presents).
    • RSI-Radiotelevisione Svizzera (in co-production with).
    • Teleclub AG (in co-production with) (as Teleclub).
    • Lichtblick Film- und Fernsehproduktion (I) (in co-production with) (as Lichtblick Filmproduktion).
    • Spotlight Media Production AG (in co-production with) (as Spotlight Media Productions).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Officine UBU (2012) (Italy) (all media).
    • Cinema Delicatessen (2012) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
    • I Wonder Pictures (2013) (Italy) (theatrical).
    • Mindjazz Pictures (2012) (Germany) (theatrical).
    • Film1 Sundance Channel (2015) (Netherlands) (TV) (limited).
    • Frenetic Films (2011) (Switzerland) (all media).
    • Icarus Films (2012) (USA) (all media).
    • Soda Pictures (2011) (UK) (DVD).
    • Yleisradio (YLE) (2012) (Finland) (TV).
  • Release Date: 07 August 2011 (Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland).
  • Running Time: 90 minutes.
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

Video Link

Book: A Little Bit Of Meditation

Book Title:

A Little Bit Of Meditation – An Introduction To Mindfulness.

Author(s): Amy Leigh Mercree.

Year: 2017.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: Sterling Publishing.

Type(s): Hardcover, Paperback, and Kindle.

Synopsis:

In this new entry in the Little Bit Of series, spirituality author Amy Leigh Mercree explores the history of meditation and its origins as well as its practical applications.

She outlines how meditation can decrease anxiety and improve the quality of our experience on earth, in addition to discussing the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual ramifications of maintaining a regular meditation practice.

She also includes a selection of easy-to-follow guided meditations.

Book: A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry

Book Title:

A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry.

Author(s): Edward Shorter.

Year: 2005.

Edition: First (1st).

Publisher: OUP USA.

Type(s): Hardcover and Kindle.

Synopsis:

This is the first historical dictionary of psychiatry. It covers the subject from autism to Vienna, and includes the key concepts, individuals, places, and institutions that have shaped the evolution of psychiatry and the neurosciences.

An introduction puts broad trends and international differences in context, with an extensive bibliography for further reading. Each entry gives the main dates, themes, and personalities involved in the unfolding of the topic. Longer entries describe the evolution of such subjects as depression, schizophrenia, and psychotherapy.

The book gives ready reference to when things happened in psychiatry, how and where they happened, and who made the main contributions. In addition, it touches on such social themes as “women in psychiatry,” “criminality and psychiatry,” and “homosexuality and psychiatry.” A comprehensive index makes immediately accessible subjects that do not appear in the alphabetical listing.

Bringing together information from the English, French, German, Italian, and Scandinavian languages, the dictionary rests on an enormous base of primary sources that cover the growth of psychiatry through all of Western society.

On This Day … 29 December

People (Births)

  • 1955 – Donald D. Hoffman, American quantitative psychologist and popular science writer.

Donald D. Hoffman

Donald David Hoffman (born 29 December 1955) is an American cognitive psychologist and popular science author. He is a professor in the Department of Cognitive Sciences at the University of California, Irvine, with joint appointments in the Department of Philosophy, the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, and the School of Computer Science.

Hoffman studies consciousness, visual perception and evolutionary psychology using mathematical models and psychophysical experiments. His research subjects include facial attractiveness, the recognition of shape, the perception of motion and colour, the evolution of perception, and the mind-body problem. He has co-authored two technical books: Observer Mechanics: A Formal Theory of Perception (1989) offers a theory of consciousness and its relationship to physics; Automotive Lighting and Human Vision (2005) applies vision science to vehicle lighting. His book Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See (1998) presents the modern science of visual perception to a broad audience. His 2015 TED Talk, “Do we see reality as it is?” explains how our perceptions have evolved to hide reality from us.

On This Day … 05 December

People (Births)

  • 1901 – Milton H. Erickson, American psychiatrist and author (d. 1980).

Milton H. Erickson

Milton Hyland Erickson (05 December 1901 to 25 March 1980) was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy.

He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association.

He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming.

On This Day … 04 November

People (Births)

  • 1882 – Constance Davey, Australian psychologist (d. 1963).
  • 1925 – Albert Bandura, Canadian-American psychologist and academic.

People (Deaths)

  • 1963 – Constance Davey, Australian psychologist (b. 1882).
  • 1981 – Jeanne Block, American psychologist (b. 1923).

Constance Davey

Constance Muriel Davey OBE (04 December 1882 to 04 December 1963) was an Australian psychologist who worked in the South Australian Department of Education, where she introduced the state’s first special education classes.

Career

Davey was born in 1882 in Nuriootpa, South Australia, to Emily Mary (née Roberts) and Stephen Henry Davey. She began teaching at a Port Adelaide private school in 1908 and at St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School in 1909. She attended the University of Adelaide as a part-time student, completing a BA in philosophy in 1915 and an MA in 1918. In 1921 she won a Catherine Helen Spence Memorial Scholarship which allowed her to undertake a doctorate at the University of London; her main area of research was “mental efficiency and deficiency” in children. She received her doctorate in 1924 and visited the United States and Canada to observe the teaching of intellectually disabled and delinquent children before returning to Australia.

In November 1924 Davey was hired as the first psychologist in the South Australian Department of Education, where she was tasked with examining and organising classes for “backward, retarded and problem” school students. She examined and performed intelligence tests on all educationally delayed children, and established South Australia’s first “opportunity class” for these children in 1925. She set up a course which educated teachers on working with intellectually disabled children in 1931. She began lecturing in psychology at the University of Adelaide in 1927, continuing until 1950, and in 1938 she helped to set up a new university course for training social workers. She resigned from the Department of Education in 1942, by which point there were 700 children in the opportunity classes she had introduced.

Davey was a member of the Women’s Non-Party Political Association for 30 years and served as the organisation’s president from 1943 to 1947. She became a fellow of the British Psychological Society in 1950 and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1955. In 1956 she published Children and Their Law-makers, a historical study of South Australian law as it pertained to children, which she had begun in 1945 as a senior research fellow at the University of Adelaide. Davey died of thyroid cancer on her 81st birthday in 1963.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura OC (born 04 December 1925) is a Canadian-American psychologist who is the David Starr Jordan Professor Emeritus of Social Science in Psychology at Stanford University.

Bandura has been responsible for contributions to the field of education and to several fields of psychology, including social cognitive theory, therapy, and personality psychology, and was also of influence in the transition between behaviourism and cognitive psychology. He is known as the originator of social learning theory (renamed the social cognitive theory) and the theoretical construct of self-efficacy, and is also responsible for the influential 1961 Bobo doll experiment. This Bobo doll experiment demonstrated the concept of observational learning.

A 2002 survey ranked Bandura as the fourth most-frequently cited psychologist of all time, behind B.F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, and Jean Piaget, and as the most cited living one. Bandura is widely described as the greatest living psychologist, and as one of the most influential psychologists of all time.

Jeanne Block

Jeanne Lavonne Humphrey Block (17 July 1923 to 04 December 1981) was an American psychologist. She conducted research into sex-role socialization and, with her husband Jack Block, created a person-centred personality framework. Block was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and conducted her research with the National Institute of Mental Health and the University of California, Berkeley. She was an active researcher when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1981.

Career

Block was born in 1923 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was raised in a small town in Oregon. After graduating from high school, she entered Oregon State University as a home economics major, but she was dissatisfied with her education. She joined SPARS, the women’s branch of the United States Coast Guard, in 1944. While serving in World War II, Block was badly burned and nearly died. She was treated with skin grafts, and she was able to return to military service until 1946.

After completing a psychology degree at Reed College, she attended graduate school at Stanford University. At Stanford, Block met two mentors, Ernest Hilgard and Maud Merrill James. Hilgard wrote a popular general psychology textbook and co-wrote a textbook on learning theories, and he became president of the American Psychological Association. James had been an associate of intelligence researcher Lewis Terman. Block also met her future husband and research collaborator, Jack Block, during her time at Stanford.

Pregnant at the time she finished her Ph.D. at Stanford in 1951, Block worked mostly part-time in the 1950s while she raised four children. Block and her husband created a person-centred personality theory that became popular among personality researchers. The theory examined personality in terms of two variables, ego-resiliency (the ability to respond flexibly to changing situations) and ego-control (the ability to suppress impulses). In 1963, she was awarded a National Institute of Mental Health fellowship and she moved with her family to Norway for a year. She joined the faculty at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1965.

In the 1970s, Block published an analysis the sex-role socialisation occurring in several groups of children in the United States and Northern Europe. Even across countries, boys were typically raised to be independent, high-achieving and unemotional, and girls were generally encouraged to express feelings, to foster close relationships and to pursue typical feminine ideals.

Block was made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and received the Hofheimer Prize for outstanding psychiatric research from the American Psychological Association (APA). She was elected president of the APA Division of Developmental Psychology.

Block died on 04 December 1981, having been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year.

On This Day … 23 November

People (Births)

  • 1961 – Keith Ablow, American psychiatrist and author.

Keith Ablow

Keith Russell Ablow (born 23 November 1961) is an American author, television personality, and former psychiatrist. He is a contributor for Fox News Channel and TheBlaze.

Formerly an assistant clinical professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, Ablow resigned as a member of the American Psychiatric Association in 2011. Ablow’s medical license was suspended in May 2019 by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. The board concluded he posed an “immediate and serious threat to the public health, safety and welfare,” alleging that he had engaged in sexual and unethical misconduct towards patients.

According to the Associated Press, Ablow “freely mixes psychiatric assessments with political criticism, a unique twist in the realm of cable news commentary that some medical colleagues find unethical.”

Early Life and Education

Ablow was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, the son of Jewish parents Jeanette Norma and Allan Murray Ablow. Ablow attended Marblehead High School, graduating in 1979. He graduated from Brown University in 1983, magna cum laude, with a Bachelor of Science degree in neurosciences. He received his Doctor of Medicine degree from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1987 and completed his psychiatry residency at the Tufts-New England Medical Centre. He was Board Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology in psychiatry in 1993 and forensic psychiatry in 1999.

While a medical student, he worked as a reporter for Newsweek and a freelancer for the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and USA Today. After his residency, Ablow served as medical director of the Tri-City Mental Health Centres and then became medical director of Heritage Health Systems and Associate Medical Director of Boston Regional Medical Centre.

On This Day … 29 October

People (Deaths)

  • 1949 – George Gurdjieff, Armenian-French monk, psychologist, and philosopher (b. 1872).

George Gurdjieff

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff[ (31 March 1866 to 29 October 1949) was a Russian philosopher, mystic, spiritual teacher, and composer of Armenian and Greek descent, born in Alexandropol, Russian Empire (now Gyumri, Armenia).

Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic “waking sleep”, but that it is possible to awaken to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline “The Work” or “the System”.

According to his principles and instructions, Gurdjieff’s method for awakening one’s consciousness unites the methods of the fakir, monk and yogi, and thus he referred to it as the “Fourth Way”.

On This Day … 13 September

Events

  • 1848 – Vermont railroad worker Phineas Gage survives an iron rod 1 1⁄4 inches (3.2 cm) in diameter being driven through his brain; the reported effects on his behaviour and personality stimulate discussion of the nature of the brain and its functions.

People (Deaths)

  • 1999 – Benjamin Bloom, American psychologist and academic (b. 1913).