Edward Julius Rosenfeld, a founding editor of Omni Magazine, and relentless explorer of altered consciousness and augmented intelligence, died on Feb. 24 in West Hurley, NY. He was 76. His widow, Sylvia Rosenfeld, said the cause was complications from cancer of unknown origin. A collaborator with Buckminster Fuller and Ken Kesey, and friend of psychedelic luminaries, his newsletters, salons and books advanced un- derstanding of what it means to expand consciousness.
Mr. Rosenfeld was raised in Manhattan during the social and intellectual tumult of the Beat Generation, when getting hold of peyote buttons was, he later observed, as easy as ordering seeds for planting flowers. A self-declared Beatnik at 15, Mr. Rosenfeld became fascinated with the intersection of science, art and human consciousness, making it his life’s work. His many published books include Talking Nets: An Oral History of Neural Networks and The Book of Highs: 255 Ways to Alter Your Consciousness without Drugs, first published in 1973 and re-published in 2018.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Rosenfeld founded the Natural Church, focused on using psychedelics as spiritual sacraments. In the late 1960s, Mr. Rosenfeld worked with author Jerome B. Agel on Buckminster Fuller’s book, I Seem To Be a Verb. Mr. Rosenfeld’s essay,“Planetary People,” appeared in The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog, co-edited by Paul Krassner and Ken Kesey, in 1971.
In 1978, he became one of the founding editors of Omni Magazine, an epoch-making science and science-fiction journal published in the US and the UK. From 1984 until 2017, he edited and published a monthly newsletter, INTELLIGENCE – The Future of Computing. Friends initially expressed concern that its title would imply it was a publication about espionage. Sure enough, the CIA, NSA and FBI promptly subscribed, but only to find out what was going on in the subjects of Artificial Intelligence, neural networks and related advanced computational technologies that it covered. He would later change the title to Making the World Work.
In 1996 he converted to web-only the Business Technology newsletter he developed with long-time collaborator, Neal Goldsmith. It was a subscription-based source of cutting-edge news on IT, management and strategy that gained a paying readership of 1,000. He also completed the original Oral History of Gestalt Therapy.
In 1980, Mr. Rosenfeld met his wife, Sylvia, a psychotherapist, whom he married in Manhattan on Feb. 26, 1984. For the next 36 years, they pursued a life of intellectual and emotional richness. Ed was a devoted and loving father to his son Zachary, 29, an artist.
In 2001, Mr. Rosenfeld co-founded with Mr. Goldsmith a series of salons in Manhattan and latterly also in Woodstock, known as Poetry-Science Talks. It was a free-ranging, open forum with the aim of promoting “a more curious, open, accepting intentionality toward the future — and the present moment of humanity’s development.” Topics included the use of psychedelics to treat depression, solutions to climate change, and creativity. Speakers ranged from psychedelic artist Isaac Abrams, through tech startup CEO Kate Bradley Chernis, to Sylvia Rosenfeld, who specializes in sex therapy and, with modest rarity, Mr. Rosenfeld himself.
He also wrote a screenplay, MKUltra, on the history of LSD, including its deployment by the CIA, which he later turned into a libretto, in collaboration with long-time friend and poet, Gerd Stern, and composer Anne LeBaron, for the opera, Aldous Huxley’s Last Trip, on the history of LSD and the CIA’s MKULTRA program. Of the resurgence of interest in psychedelics now, Mr. Rosenfeld said in an interview in the Journal for the Study of Radicalism in 2015: “I think curiosity is the call word of the day. And people are more curious about it. They may be afraid that they don’t want to lose control. They don’t want to trip, because they’ve heard things about death trips. But I would tell them titrate, titrate, titrate!” In the same interview, Mr. Rosenfeld described an LSD-induced trip, sometime in the 1970s, in which he felt he experienced death. “I couldn’t stop it. I died and then I awoke. When I died, the sun was setting behind the mountains. And the sun exploded. I died. I melted. I went away.”
Mr. Rosenfeld spent the last week of his life watching the sun set behind his beloved Catskill Mountains. He is survived by his wife,
Sylvia, his son Zachary, and daughter in love, Tiffany.
— Helen Atkinson & Stuart Samuels