Oscar Janiger

"My initial contact with the drug [LSD-25]
was so remarkable that it moved me to spend
the next 45 years of my life in studying it.

Janiger. "Personal Statement"

His friends and associates called him "Oz." As in wizard. For a time, in the Los Angeles community of dream-weavers, artists and wannabes, he was known as a man who had a "creativity pill." Oscar Janiger was a Beverly Hills psychiatrist who also taught at the California College of Medicine (now University of California at Irvine.) While lecturing at the college Janiger met Paul Bivens, a deep sea diver who worked on the television show Sea Hunt. Bivens, in 1954, turned Dr. Janiger on to LSD.

The powerful effect of the drug inspired Janiger to devise an experiment to learn more about it. Janiger immediately recognized LSD's potential to be a "marvelous instrument to learn more about the mind...My goal was simply to find out what LSD does to people under uniform conditions." This was the genesis, in 1954, of Janiger's 8-year research study that included dosing each one of the nearly one thousand volunteers with about 250 micrograms of LSD-25.

Unlike the LSD field tests conducted by the United States government, Janiger's subjects were fully aware of the fact that they were taking the drug. In fact, each participant paid $20 for the experience since Janiger did not take any money from the government. He got Sandoz Laboratories, the Swiss pharmaceutical firm which manufactured LSD, to provide the potent acid.

Janiger's LSD tests took place in a room with an adjoining outside garden in his Wilshire Boulevard office. Up until this point in time most of the human research with LSD had been conducted on psychiatric patients and/or prison inmates. "So many of the studies prior to mine were done in hospital rooms, restricted environments and I thought that my study might be benefited by a naturalistic environment." Early on Janiger recognized the importance of the "set and setting" concept and how the environment impacts on the LSD experience. Janiger's volunteers came from mostly middle and upper middleclass backgrounds. The volunteer test subjects were asked to record and document the LSD experience and to complete a post-trip questionnaire.

Janiger probably agreed with the U.S. government's initial assessment that LSD might be "the secret that was going to unlock the universe." But, Janiger's reason for investigating LSD was radically different from the U.S. government's reason. The government, mostly in the guise of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was interested in LSD's potential for mind control; Janiger's focus was on mind expansion.

While the Technical Services Staff  (TSS) of the CIA conducted LSD tests on subjects without telling the subjects, (MK-ULTRA Subproject 3, "Operation Midnight Climax"), Janiger was conducting his "Operation Kachina Doll." (Janiger did not actually call it an "operation.") The Kachina Doll experiment was actually part of the larger LSD study mentioned above.

In the "Kachina Doll" tests, Janiger attempted to study the effects of LSD on creativity. About 70 artists participated. Each "Kachina Doll" artist was asked to paint or draw a Kachina Doll before taking the LSD and then again one hour after ingesting the acid. Some 250 art works, drawings and paintings were created during these sessions.

In a paper called "LSD and Creativity" published more than 30 years after the tests were conducted, Janiger and an associate explained how LSD and creativity might be related:

It is of special interest to note that many of those elements that are universally reported under the influence of LSD are those features traditionally associated with heightened artistic creativity. The ultimate explanation for these changes may lie in a biochemical basis of perception and/or the cultural history of the individual. ("LSD & Creativity" by Oscar Janiger and Marlene Dobkin de Rios. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol 21(1), Jan-Mar 1989.)
That "and/or" option is intriguing but perhaps necessarily evasive.

As suggested, Janiger's testing methodology stood in dramatic contrast to the methodology used by the U.S. government. Of course the goals were different. The government was looking for a drug that could covertly modify behavior. Janiger was looking for a "creativity pill." While the U.S. government (and other governments around the post-World War II world) investigated LSD's potential as a weapon, others, like the good Dr. Janiger, were curious about LSD's potential for intellectual, artistic and emotional enlightenment. The spooks in the Technical Services Staff of the CIA, supported by a willing cadre of Dr. Strangeloves in universities, hospitals and prisons wanted to find out if brains could be bleached with lysergic acid. The mystics and intellectuals, many of whom breathed the Southern California air, wondered if this powerful potion might not be the key to melting away the various doors of deception.

Janiger interacted with a number of intellectuals, scientists, artists and avant-gardists including Aldous Huxley, Anais Nin, Alan Watts, and Sidney Cohen. Huxley's Doors of Perception, inspired by his psychedelic trips on mescaline, was published in the Spring of 1954. Huxley's first LSD-25 experience occurred in December 1955 in Los Angeles. Nin took LSD under Janiger's supervision at his office, as did a number of artists and Hollywood actors.

Janiger has referred to this loose confederation of individuals who experimented with psychedelics as a "consciousness clan." The clan would meet to discuss their adventures with acid tripping and the role LSD might play in society. How could the psychedelic experience be integrated into the culture? Contemplating that question while digesting 200 or 300 micrograms of lysergic acid led to some far-out suggestions.

We thought that the ritual created by the Greeks at Eleusis could serve as an instructive model...The psychedelic experience at Eleusis was administered by guides for two thousand years in a socially sanctioned, supervised context. Perhaps such a context can be recreated in the new millennium in a manner suitable for our culture. (Personal Statement)

Janiger and comrades thought that LSD could be used to revive the secret, and presumably mind-expanding, ritual of ancient Eleusis "in a manner suitable for our culture."

Janiger stands historically as a primary facilitator of the group that saw LSD and psychedelics as a drug with the potential to expand human consciousness. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that the powers-that-be do not want an enlightened citizenry with expanded minds. The original focus of the government was to study LSD's discombobulating effect on the human being. To his credit, Oscar Janiger stands on the other bank of the flow, looking at the drug's potential for espying glorious visions.

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Sometime after the spring of 1954, at around the same time that Janiger began his research with LSD, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) set up a government-funded brothel (whorehouse) at 225 Chestnut Street in San Francisco's North Beach area. The brothel was outfitted with cameras, custom mirrors, and other recording devices. The CIA, as part of its larger covert mind-control research, was attempting to study the effectiveness of drugs and sex, in controlling a subject's behavior. These field tests with LSD were conducted on unwitting individuals. The acid was clandestinely administered. The prostitutes, paid $100 per test by the CIA, would presumably have sex with the dosed "johns" while the hidden cameras recorded the event. The Chestnut Street brothel was under the direct supervision of George White, a veteran of the intelligence and narcotics enforcement subculture. White's supervisor at the CIA was the enigmatic Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and leading figure in the CIA's LSD experiments. In a letter to Gottlieb, White wrote, "I toiled wholeheartedly in the vineyards because it was fun, fun, fun...Where else could a red-blooded American boy lie, kill, cheat, steal, rape and pillage with the sanction and blessing of the all-highest?" The "vineyards" White mentions might refer to the space behind the wall where he would sit while the cameras whirred.

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Kachina dolls represent powerful ancient spirits conjured up in ceremony by the Hopi, a native American people in the Southwest part of the United States. The word "Hopi" means "good, wise, peaceful" and the tribe is a tranquil and spiritual example of the early inhabitants of the region. They are descendents of the Anasazi. The pre-historic Anasazi settled in what is now called Arizona and New Mexico more than 2000 years ago. There are over 200 Kachinas and Hopi children begin to learn about the meaning of the different spirits by receiving Kachina dolls as gifts from their fathers and uncles.

Janiger's selection of the Kachina Doll to use in his LSD and creativity experiments seems to be somewhat random. A kachina doll happened to be sitting on a mantle in his office when an artist, under the influence of LSD, asked for some object to draw. Janiger handed the tripper the kachina doll.

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Eleusis, located 15 miles or so west of Athens in Greece probably had its origins as a port city during the Theban expansion in the Middle Helladic II period. This period occurred about 18 centuries before the onslaught of the Christian era. Historically the city of Eleusis is associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries, a secret cult honoring the goddess Demeter that likely originated during the Mycenaean era (1500-1100 BCE) Today the city of Eleusis is a victim of the Industrial era. Located on a rocky ridge close to the shore of the Bay of Eleusis, the city was industrialized with shipbuilding plants. Consequences of this development included the severe pollution of the bay and the general ecological downgrading of the environment. Eleusis, like much of West Athens is considered a depressed area in need of regeneration. (See ASDA Report)

The second Century BC Greek scholar Apollodorus suggests that the Eleusinian Mysteries began sometime during the 15th Century BC The Homeric Hymn to Demeter tells the tale on which the cult is built. The goddess Demeter, daughter of Kronos and Rhea has her own daughter, Persephone, kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld. Demeter goes to Eleusis and interacts with its people. Eventually her Persephone is returned and the people of Eleusis honor the goddess with a temple that becomes the focal point for the Mystery rites. It is on one level a relic (and a portent?) from the matrifocal stage of our collective history. Demeter is the goddess of agriculture, fertility and marriage. In a remarkable example of historical secrecy the core experience of the initiation rite has remained unknown for thousands of years.

By the time Socrates lived in Athens, (c.400 BC) the Eleusinian Mysteries had evolved into a state-sponsored festival. Each year in the fall, during the month of Boedromion, a nine-day ritual culminated in the secret initiation of new members.

An important component of the ritual was the drinking of the mysterious liquid called "kykeon." It has been suggested that this substance was a psychedelic. In a 1978 book, The Road to Eleusis Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann and Carl A. P. Ruck indicate that the mystery behind the "Mysteries" might in fact be the hallucinogenic effects of a drink composed of ergot. The quoted testimony about the events inside the inner sanctum of the Temple, meager as it is, has its psychedelic aspects. (Note: For an interesting discussion of the Wasson, et. al. theory see "Has the Mystery of the Eleusinian Mysteries Been Solved?" by Ivan Valencic in Yearbook for Ethnomedicine and the Study of Consciousness, Issue 3, 1994, pp325-336.)

In any event, the rituals at Eleusis stopped during the Dark Ages when Alaric and his Visigoths sacked the city. Theodosius' anti-pagan decrees of 390 AD put a final official end to the worship of Demeter at Eleusis.

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Bats-Right   Throws-Right

photo by Marcia Berris

Janiger joined the Psychedelphia Woodsox as a result of the 1984 Winter Draft. Scouts had spotted him in the outfield when he played for the Kachina Dolls of the Southern California League. Janiger immediately established himself as a top-flight fielder who had trouble with the curveball at the plate. With his probing psychological orientation, Janiger also became a team leader. His knowledge of both the human psyche and the subtleties of the game of baseball make him a likely field manager candidate when his cosmic playing career is over.

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  • Martin A. Lee & Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams- The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties and Beyond. 1985.

  • R.E.L. Masters & Jean Houston, The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience- The First Comprehensive Guide to the Effects of LSD on Human Personality. 1966.

  • Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven- LSD and the American Dream. 1987.

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Oscar Janiger 2001 Cosmic Player Plate
URL http://www.cosmicbaseball.com/janiger01.html
Published: July 1, 2001
Edited: December 10, 2009
E-mail: editor@cosmicbaseball.com