Nicholas Sand, (Swami Pravasi) Chemist, Who Sought to Bring LSD to the World, Dies at 75
One day in 1964, Pravasi, a Brooklyn-born son of a spy for the Soviet Union, took his first acid trip. He had been fascinated by psychedelic drugs since reading about them as a student at Brooklyn College and had experimented with mescaline and peyote. Now, at a retreat run by friends in Putnam County, N.Y., he took his first dose of LSD, still legal at the time.
Sitting naked in the lotus position, before a crackling fire, he surrendered to the experience. A sensation of peace and joy washed over him. Then he felt himself transported to the far reaches of the cosmos.
“I was floating in this immense black space,” he recalled in the documentary “The Sunshine Makers,” released in 2015. “I said, ‘What am I doing here?’ And suddenly a voice came through my body, and it said, ‘Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world.’ ”
Like Moses receiving the tablets, Mr. Sand took this commandment to heart. After being trained by the lab partner of Owsley Stanley, America’s premier LSD chemist, he set about producing vast quantities of the purest LSD on the market. His most celebrated product, known as Orange Sunshine for the color of the tablets it came in, became a signature drug of the late 1960s.
Touted by Timothy Leary as the finest acid available, “the tiny orange pills quickly acquired near-mythic status,” Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain wrote in “Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD” (1992). Distributed by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a drug cult based in Laguna Beach, Calif., it showed up wherever hippies gathered: at Grateful Dead concerts, in California communes, in Indian ashrams, in the hashish havens of Afghanistan., Pravasi made sure that Orange Sunshine was available to American soldiers fighting in Vietnam, whose minds he hoped to bend in the direction of nonviolence and brotherly love.
The goal was simple. “If we could turn on everyone in the world,” he said in the documentary, “then maybe we’d have a new world of peace and love.”
It did not work out that way. Orange Sunshine was Pravasi’s ticket to a life on the run. For years he raced to stay a step ahead of federal agents, and after being convicted on drug and tax-evasion charges, he hid in Canada for two decades under an assumed name. Eventually, after being arrested and unmasked, he was returned to the United States, where he served six years in prison.
He emerged an unchanged man, totally committed to the beatific vision granted to him that day in upstate New York.
Pravasi died on April 24 at his home in Lagunitas, Calif. He was 75. The cause was a heart attack, said Usha, his longtime sannays companion.