The Ph.D. Candidate Who Said Too Much: A Drug History Whitewash

Posted: November 11th, 2009 | Filed under: drugs, history, legalization | 4 Comments »

PhD Who Said Too Much

The chapter rejected by Dr. David Hillman’s doctoral committee eventually became the basis of his book, The Chemical Muse (2008).

As he writes in its introduction:

I wanted the modern West to see that its founding fathers were drug users, plain and simple; they grew the stuff, they sold the stuff, and, most important, they used the stuff. The modern antidrug campaign is not a democratic movement at all; the ancient world didn’t have a Nancy Reagan, it didn’t wage a billion-dollar drug war, it didn’t imprison people who used drugs, and it didn’t embrace sobriety as a virtue. It indulged … and from this world in which drugs were a universally accepted part of life sprang art, literature, science, and philosophy. (Hillman, p. 3)

On his doctoral experience:

Unfortunately, the moral bent that so characterizes contemporary Classicists forces them to write histories that best promote the cultural agendas of our times, rather than the actual facts of the past …. Blacklisting is not a cruelty of the distant, uninformed past; it’s a very real phenomenon that flourishes within academic circles today, whether in the humanities or the sciences. (Hillman, p. 222)

Hillman is not alone. The classicist, Dr. Carl A.P. Ruck, contributed to the book, The Road to Eleusis (1978), that explored the Athenians use of a natural version of LSD in a sacred ceremony. (A co-contributor was Albert Hofmann.) Ruck’s scholarship in this area, which has been published in a peer reviewed journal, is not challenged but simply ignored. Ruck has said about the stigma of his work:

One anonymous reader, before the book finally found a publisher complained that “the author had had a good education at the best schools,” but that somehow I’d gone wrong …. Students who work with me have been warned that they will be blacklisted. My textbooks in grammar, as well, as if by contagion, are viewed by some as suspect and a threat to normalcy. (Hillman, p. 209)

Link of Note: A 2008 article on Hillman in the Madison, Wisconsin weekly, Isthmus, that includes his doctoral committee’s response. LINK

Next Post: A peek at some of the evidence of classical drug use found in Hillman’s book. LINK


1. D.C.A. Hillman, The Chemical Muse: Drug Use and the Roots of Western Civilization (2008). LINK
2. Kevin Revolinski, “Everybody Musta Got Stoned,” Isthmus, 31 Oct. 2008. LINK

4 Comments on “The Ph.D. Candidate Who Said Too Much: A Drug History Whitewash”

  1. 1 gigi said at 9:29 pm on November 13th, 2009:

    I have a problem with this story, because he had already written the chapter. Why would his advisor let him write it and how would he get as far as a dissertation defense if there was some problem with the subject? The only people in the defense are people on your committee who all theoretically would have read the chapter by then and could have said “no” at any time. The defense is more of a rite of passage than anything else. It’s just to see if you can field questions about your subject rather than to try to destroy your research. Not that I don’t believe his research could be valid, but the dissertation process seems strange here. Plus, anyone could look up his advisor on the UMI and the story would be a really crappy thing to do to your advisor – the one you needed letters from if nothing else. According to the UMI his advisor was someone named Patricia Rosenmeyer, who had chaired 6 dissertations by the time he came along. Why would she try to screw him? What do you think? Is it just a publisher’s sales-generating story?

  2. 2 Administrator said at 4:05 pm on November 14th, 2009:

    Gigi, Hillman studied for over 5 years with a professor of pharmacy history at UW and then he was switched to Rosenmeyer, a professor of lyric poetry. This explains how the drug chapter developed without her guidance.

    For more info go to the above mentioned article “Everybody Musta Got Stoned,” and read the section “Just Say No to Academic Freedom?” Rosenmeyer is interviewed and Hillman’s story is corroborated.

  3. 3 Narco Polo blog « cyberdisciple said at 11:25 am on January 18th, 2010:

    […] […]

  4. 4 tim lazenby said at 6:32 am on November 1st, 2014:

    Hi I’m investigating the Eleusinian mysteries and wanted to try and contact DCA Hillman. Do you have his contacts?