The Discovery of Love by Malden Grange Bishop
Originally published in 1963 ‘The Discovery of Love – A Psychedelic Experience with LSD-25’ written by Malden Grange Bishop, is typical, though with its own idiosyncrasies, of the LSD psychotherapy literature that was published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. As the title suggests, the context of Bishop’s single experience was in Psychedelic Therapy and was administered at the Institute of Psychedelic Studies, in San Francisco. The premise of the single, high dose LSD session in Psychedelic Therapy was to induce a mystical, or religious experience and, in this, Bishop was not disappointed.
On the Institute’s board of directors was Dr. Humphry Osmond, the individual who coined the term ‘psychedelic’ and who helped pioneer Psychedelic Therapy; he also wrote the foreword to The Discovery of Love. While Osmond’s approach was different from the psycholytic school of thought, they both retain the psychodynamic function of the personal unconscious, and this ensuing biographical detail is necessarily translated into texts. He wrote: “The background here is the whole of the author’s life and unless we know what manner of man he is, we cannot hope to follow, let alone understand, his account of the mind manifesting experience” (Bishop 8). Thus the first third of the book is autobiographical and was initially written for the pre-session research.
In this autobiographical section, Bishop identifies various relationships and painful memories about deaths of parents and such like. As his LSD experience nears its final section, he begins to relive and resolve each of these memories and relationships in turn. For example, his estranged step-son: “I am glad that Bobby is my boy” (Bishop 138). Yet, at times, the Freudian imagery is stark: “As I stared at the rose, the living, moving bud changed into the end of my father’s penis, and then it changed into my mother’s womb. I was there inside the cavity. I saw the ovum high up to the left of me. Then I saw the penis enter into the door of the womb.” (Bishop 114). This experience made Bishop feel sure of his immortality; he was there before, there to witness his mortal birth and he says this was the “most magnificent” point of his experience.
Bishop describes the term ‘psychedelic’ in two ways during the book; firstly as meaning “mind manifesting”, which is concurrent with the meaning of the word attached to it by its creator Dr. Humphry Osmond but also as “soul manifesting” wherein the translation of the Greek term ‘psyche’ changes. Herein lies an ambiguity that is at the very conceptual heart of the LSD Psychotherapy period of drug writing. Not only do ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ carry religious and secular connotations respectively; but both also imply a dualism. Though, in the case of Bishop: “My own experience under LSD was the revelation of my soul to me. There can be no deeper experience, no more profound revelation” (Bishop 13). This soul was more than an individuality though; for Bishop it was a recognition of a universal soul that supposedly inhabits all and is in fact a pantheistic rejection of duality; he terms this reality, interchangeably, as both God and Love.
His relationship with Christianity is mixed and like the majority of texts from the period he explicitly rejects the Church’s dogma: “I do not feel that any church known to me is seeking the truth. Each is certain it has the truth; they only want me to worship that which they have already decided is the truth” (Bishop 59). Like many of the psychedelic writers he came from a not-overtly religious background and usually, at some point in their life, found their objection in the dogma of the Christian faith. Instead, he is intensely humanist and psychological: “I cannot conceive of an authoritarian God, God is only another way of saying Me, a something in and of me. Man creates God in his own image” (Bishop 59).
Bishop, while repeating some worn motifs like a rose (interestingly there was always a rose in the room for each patient’s session, as it was one of the “oldest symbols”,) he still manages to introduce his own manner. A good example is how he introduced the birth/death theme found so regularly repeated: As he waits to be taken to his room for the LSD session, he thinks about a visit he had taken to San Quentin prison as part of some research he was conducting. On that trip he was taken to the gas chamber and had the whole process described in detail, right to the point of the preparation of the gas. His memory seems to represent both his fear of the coming experience but also the idea of the death of the body and an entering into a non-physical realm.
The Discovery of Love – A Psychedelic Experience with LSD-25 is among the shortest of the texts from this period, finishing out at 176 pages. This is probably because it follows the single dose sessions of Psychedelic Therapy, however, this counts in its favour because there is much less chance for repetition and reiteration to clog up the flow. The text is coolly and calmly structured, rarely opening an avenue that it doesn’t then close later in the narrative and even takes the time to answer some FAQ at the end.
In fact, it almost seems too perfect, uncanny even, for the following to be true of his autobiographical answers from the pre-session: “Except for some minor editing to correct errors and the change of a name or two… what follows is the autobiography exactly as I wrote it in secret” (Grange 28). There is something contrived about the book, more so than the period’s normal feel of restriction, and it may have to do with the date; 1963. Perhaps a defence of the successful practice of Psychedelic Therapy against the Food Drug Administration, who had begun to turn off LSD research in the United States the previous year, lay somewhere deep in its production/psyche?