DID SIGMUND FREUD EXPERIMENT WITH HALLUCINOGENIC MUSHROOMS?
Most people familiar with the career of Dr. Sigmund
Freud, the founder of psychanalysis, are aware of the scandal of
cocaine use in his early career. As a young doctor, Freud
experimented with cocaine and even promoted its use as a sort of
cure-all for a variety of physical and psychological ailments.
Eventually Freud became aware of the addictive power of cocaine
and stopped promoting its use. Cocaine addiction was common in
the 19th century, and Freud's cocaine use has been popularized in
books and films, including _The Seven-Percent Solution_. Many of
Freud's followers are, to this day, a bit touchy about this
episode in Freud's early career. But it looks now like a new Freud
scandal is looming on the horizon.
A new book _Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity_ includes a
chapter "Freud in the Garden of Good and Evil" which presents
irrefutable evidence from the memoirs of Freud's son, Martin, that
Freud involved his children in "mushroom-hunting expeditions"
looking for hallucinogenic mushrooms. Freud often took his family
on vacations in the Alps, and there he organized his children on
mushroom hunts where they searched for the Amanita Muscaria
mushrooms that grow in mountain forests.
This variety of mushroom has been recognized by Europeans as
a powerful hallucinogen since the early 18th century when travelers
brought back reports of its use as an intoxicant by Siberian
hunters. It is likely that Freud, while doing research on primitive
religious practices, came across reports of its use and began his
own experiments, using his children to help him locate areas where
the mushrooms grow. Fairly large quantities of the mushroom are
needed to create a prolonged hallucinogenic "trip" and this would
explain why Freud involved his children in the search for these
In Martin Freud's memoir _Sigmund Freud: Man and Father_, he
describes the Amanita mushrooms but he is clearly unaware of their
hallucinogenic properties. It wasn't until some years after the
publication of this memoir that scholars outside of the fields of
ethnography and biology became familiar with this Amanita species,
which explains why this episode in Freud's career remained obscure
to Freud's many biographers.
It is an open question as to how much Freud's experiences
may be documented in his papers, which have for many years been
tightly controlled by a small group of Freud's followers. If
evidence of such experimentation is a part of Freud's papers, it
may help to explain why access to his writings has been closely
guarded for so many years. Like his cocaine use, it is also a
question how much this episode in Freud's career may have influenced
his writings, including _Civilization and Its Discontents_ and
_Totem and Taboo_.
Earl Lee, author of _Libraries in the Age of Mediocrity_,
discovered the reference to the amanita mushrooms in Martin Freud's
memoir while doing research for his book _Drakulya_, which deals
with occultism and psychology in the 19th century England.
LIBRARIES IN THE AGE OF MEDIOCRITY by Earl Lee
publication date: Sept. 1, 1998
$25  pp. softcover, notes, bibliography, index.