The Ritual.

“Metaphor for a missing moment.
Pull me into your perfect circle.
One womb, one shape, one resolve.
Liberate this will to release us all.”
— A Perfect Circle, Orestes.

In the days that followed the shroom trip, I found myself constantly reflecting on the incident that occurred in the bathroom, where I found myself in another space, surrounded by a circle of “spirits” seemingly headed by a taller, female being with whom I communicated. The way I found myself on the ground with all of them arranged around me like a living Stonehenge was curious. I remember the figures surrounding me were humanoid if not human, but no details such as their faces or clothing have survived. I’m uncertain as to whether that was the case during the experience or only the effects of the amnesia.

The conversation I had with the tall, slender woman looming before and above me felt like a conversation with an actual person, too. She gave off this strong vibe that seemed psychic as well as sexual: an intense but controlled energy. She seemed very accepting of me and I really felt a sort of bond with her, which is not to say that I knew her or felt as if I had been to that place before.

There was no anarchy of thoughts and perceptions, unlike the craziness that followed that point in the trip, however — quite the contrary. What I did remember suggested an incredibly stable, coherent and real experience, it was only that I was unable to recall the experience in totality.

It felt like a ritual of some kind. It was as if I had been summoned, evoked, conjured up by those “spirits” much as some of those practicing magick in our world are said to do with respect to them. As utterly insane as it sounds, that idea really intrigues me.

I’ve asked two women I know, one a Pagan and the other who is a close friend of a Pagan, hoping they might shed some light on whether this actually seemed like a ritual or — perhaps more likely — it was just some weirdness my brain cooked up, but so far, no insights.

Still, it seemed so very fucking real, and the small amount of writing I dedicated to the experience just didn’t seem to do it justice. There was simply no way I could capture it in words like an insect in amber, there was just no hope of doing it justice in verbal translation. I want to do research, wrap my head around it more tightly, but have no idea where to begin.

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Of Elephants and Donkeys.

Colors get bolder,
show their extremes.

Behold:
elephants and donkeys
grown
hypersensitive
and indignant, blades drawn
and lightly kissing
one another’s jugular,
each daring their opponent
through loaded glares.

On the right,
an elephant with a boner
for guns, flags and border walls,
statues and tradition,

a dream to secure
the large scale
version of the kind
of safe space
they condemn as infantile
when it comes
to the left.

To the left,
a donkey
battling prejudice
with prejudice, as if inversion
is any better,
and on a language
nazi campaign,

fighting for censorship
and compelled speech,
demanding penalties

if any item
on it’s list
of cherry-picked words
are uttered,
all as it invents
new words and fights

to shove
them into your mind,
hear them shoot
out your mouth.

No truth
to be found here,
to each
their alternative facts.

Grabbing my parachute.
I’m bailing out.

Both wings
have grown insane.

I’ll take my chances
defying gravity.

Death, Rebirth and the Lost Civilization.

“Act of God, baby. Fire’s part of nature. … FEMA’s gonna set them up at the Marriott. They’re gonna get room service for two months, premium cable. And they’ll come back, see it all built up bigger, brighter. And then God’s gonna burn it down again, ’cause they don’t belong here in the first place. And the whole thing starts over. It’s the circle of life.”
— Guillermo to Nancy, Weeds (episode 315).

“If you looked at the Earth as a living organism as you’re flying into L.A and as you’re passing all these beautiful mountains, and you see the ocean ahead, and it all looks so natural and beautiful, and then you see L.A. and you think, well, what the fuck is that? It’s a growth, that’s cancer. Its big, its brown, it stinks, smokes coming out of it, and it gets bigger every year. And it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s going to keep going, you could knock it down with a hurricane and it just rebuilds. Light it on fire, it rebuilds.”
— Joe Rogan.

“Some say a comet
will fall from the sky,
followed by meteor showers
and tidal waves,
followed by fault lines
that cannot sit still,
followed by billions
of dumbfounded dipshits.”
— Tool, Aenema.

I. The Cataclysms.

Since our mother earth was given birth to some 4.6 billion years ago, she has suffered at least five major ice ages. The most recent, known as the Pleistocene Epoch, stretched from a currently-accepted 2,600,000 to roughly 11,700 years ago. During this period the continents were more or less in their current positions, just covered in ice to varying degrees throughout cycles of thawing and refreezing. Some 21,300 years ago the Pleistocene achieved the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and there began a gradual meltdown some — but then, roughly 12,900 years ago, something drastic occurred, something that served to throw us back into a mini ice age for 1,200 years. This period is known as the Younger Dryas, and it lasted from roughly 10,900 to 9,700 BCE.

What caused it, Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson tell us, were fragments of an extraterrestrial object. Some 20,000 years ago, around the time of the LGM on our icy island earth, a comet roughly 62 miles in diameter arrived from deep space, taking up an orbit around the sun that crosses the orbit of the earth for twelve days twice a year. For some reason, the comet broke into multiple fragments we now call the Taurids meteor stream, but they nonetheless maintained the original orbit. These meteor showers arrive first in late June, early July, from the direction of the sun, and again in late October or early November.

On one of those two annual occasions in circa 10,980 BCE, a series of meteors left the Taurid flock and headed on a collision course with the earth. As the meteor broke up, fragments impacted both the Northern European ice cap and an area in Syria, but the most devastating impacts were at least four fragments roughly two kilometers in diameter that hit the one-to-two-mile-thick North American ice cap. It melted quickly, causing massive floodwaters that carried along not only sediment but icebergs that scraped across the land, grinding the landscape and leaving behind scars still evident today. The impact also evaporated part of the ice sheet and shot water vapor into the atmosphere, where it mixed with the cloud of ash and produced torrential acid rainfall for days, perhaps weeks, with violent winds to boot. There was a rapid rise in sea level, perhaps 30 feet globally in a day, 400 feet within a year.

In Europe, Russia, Egypt, and Australia there is an 18 inch “black mat layer” of ash and debri in the soil called the Usselo Horizon right on the Younger Dryas Boundary. At the base of the layer were found “impact proxies,” essentially the same as the contents of the KT boundary, left over by the comet believed to have killed the dinosaurs: nano-diamonds, melt glass, iridium, extraterrestrial helium and carbon spherules. These contents can only be caused by cosmic collisions. The rest of the layer is black, carbonaceous ash left over in the wake of the wildfires that raged across continents due to the comet’s ejecta — that is, the ice or soil native to earth that was thrown up and out and far and wide as consequence of the impact.

Atop that black mat rested the bones of the survivors of the cataclysm, beneath it a graveyard of species: victims of a mass extinction event that claimed 75% of all animals in North America, including 120 megafauna, or large mammals, as well as 75% of the Clovis Paleo-Indian population. In addition, there were wooly mammoths found with broken legs, some of whom still had food in their mouths, as if they were suddenly killed by the force of the impact.

After a few hot years there then came a deadly cold. Two explanations have been proposed for this. First, the floodwaters may have interrupted the Gulf Stream, effectively switching off the central heating system of our planet. It may have also been the case that the dust blown up in the wake of the impacts had gathered around the earth, blanketing her from the sun. Regardless of the precise causes, she then plunged into the Younger Dryas for 1,200 years, which brought the global temperature down to depths exceeding the most frigid point of the Pleistocene.

This uber-freeze ended abruptly at around 9,700 BCE, when temperatures again skyrocketed and we again had instant, massive flooding and a rising sea level — this time, however, there was no subsequent, swift and severe thousand-plus-year chill. Suspicious of the dramatic heat spike, Hancock suspects the culprit may have been a second series of impacts from the Taurids. They may have hit the Pacific ocean this time, vaporizing water and sending it into the atmosphere, enshrouding the earth and creating the greenhouse effect, hence the rising temperature, the melting of more glaciers, more torrential rains, and another round of massive flooding. Robert Schoch invests in another hypothesis, however, namely that this second spike in warming was caused by a solar flare, which could also have caused mass destruction and ended the Younger Dryas.

Whatever the case, ice core samples from Antarctica and Greenland both confirm that there were two warming spikes, one that took place in 10,900 BCE and another in 9,700 BCE, both causing massive flooding. The impact hypothesis is still debated, however, though not to the degree to which Hancock and Carlson’s addition hypothesis does.

II. The Lost Civilization.

It was some 300,000 years ago, within the frigid womb of the global, winter wonderland of the Pleistocene, that anatomically modern Homo Sapiens are believed to have emerged from their early ancestors and ultimately weathered the hellstorm of the Younger Dryas. Prior to and during this global cataclysm, we are told, there was no civilization. Instead, all human beings had organized themselves into small, nomadic, roughly-egalitarian bands that carried light as they moved around in fixed territories in response to the seasonal availability of food to hunt and gather. We began to leave Africa in waves of migrations and slowly spread across the globe.

Just after the Younger Dryas, however, around 10 to 8,000 BCE, the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution began in different regions of the Fertile Crescent and then happened independently in various locations worldwide. This was when we transitioned from nomadic hunter-gatherers to sedentary agrarians who practiced farming and animal domestication, which ultimately led to the first complex civilizations around 3,000 BCE.

There are many who argue that the above, widely-accepted view of human progression throughout our history is incomplete and misleading, however, and that there is suggestion that civilization existed well before 3,000 BCE. Proponents of this hypothesis speak of a global, advanced “lost civilization” or “mother culture” that once spanned the globe. For long Hancock has argued this, and that for reasons unknown “we are a species with amnesia.” Now he and Carlson jointly posit that these events at 10,900 BCE and 9,700 BCE are what served as the reset button, bringing humankind down in numbers, wiping the slate clean of civilization and delivering us back to the hunter-gatherer state.

It was the Bright Insight channel on YouTube that first brought me to exploring the question of such a lost civilization in general, and he provides a few useful examples of how quickly evidence of our own culture could vanish if we were suddenly struck with such a cataclysm today. Subsequent internet searches turned up a good number of articles on the subject, most of which reference the book The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman, which I’ve now added to my list of must-read books.

In any case, the force of the initial impacts and continental wildfires would have destroyed much evidence of such a civilization. As glaciers melted, floodwaters would carry melting glaciers, their weight crushing the land and any artifacts or structures on it as it carried the remnants downstream, which would then serve to bury any surviving structures. If it then re-froze just to melt and flood again a little over a thousand years later, that would just mean more flooding, more glaciers scraping across the landscape, leaving behind very little evidence of any civilization that could have been there.

Anything that dodged the initial destruction would have been reclaimed by nature in due time. If a similar catastrophe happened to our own civilization, for instance, our houses would deteriorate rather quickly, with the shingles and caulk lasting up to 30 years. Wood and brick homes would rapidly deteriorate within a few decades. Other products of our civilization would last longer, of course, but perhaps not as long as you might suspect. As Bright Insight points out on numerous occasions throughout his videos, one need only to look at the Titanic, which has been submerged under the Atlantic ocean since 1912, to see how quickly traces of our existence might vanish. In a little over a hundred years the more than 50,000 tons of steel and iron out of which it is constructed has largely disintegrated and it is thought that it will be entirely gone within two decades. Aside from windshields, which may last up to a million years until they are ground to dust, all other components of our automobiles would be gone in under a thousand years. It would take about as long for our garbage to break down as well: cotton, thread and rope would be gone in roughly a year; nylon, leather shoes and tin cans within half a century; plastic within a thousand years. Well within 13 thousand years, most evidence of lost civilization would be washed away by the sands of time — save for things made of stone. For us, the longest living structure would be the Hoover dam, which would perish in roughly ten thousand years.

Still, this is based on the assumption that humanity would just disappear off the face of the earth today. The reboot hypothesis posits that there was an advanced, global civilization that was snuffed out by global calamity, however, and clearly not that humans perished altogether. Though our populations were reduced and we were thrown back into the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, we survived and climbed towards re-establishing civilization — and in so doing, we may have also contributed to eliminating evidence of our lost civilization, or in the very least confusing such evidence.

Though to my knowledge Hancock does not believe any of the known stone structures across the world predate the Younger Dryas, he nonetheless believes that they may be dated incorrectly, and his suspicion seems reasonable. The issue is that they cannot date the stone directly, and so must rely on organic material associated with the structures, which may in fact only be evidence of the most recent of many tenants. As for the structures themselves, they may be far older. To add more confusion, history has shown that if a city is abandoned and another culture occupies it, they may alter monuments (as is thought to have occurred with the head of the Sphinx) or build upon the ancient structures. On other occasions, ancient structures are destroyed to use their materials for modern structures, such as when people stole limestone from the pyramids on Egypt. Such structures may even be demolished in favor of building new ones, as Graham Hancock has also explained. After conquering enemies, the triumphant often destroy statues or demolish cities, too. New religions may behave in a similar manner, not only outlawing the old religions and torturing and killing those who refuse to convert, but by burning manuscripts, annihilating tablets and toppling the old temples as well.

If stone structures are either submerged beneath water or buried beneath sand or earth, however, dating can be more reliable. This is good news, as such an advanced civilization probably would have set up its population centers much as we have, which is to say that it would have been along the coastline during the ice age. If any submerged structures were found today, we know they could be no younger than the time of the rise in sea level. The issue, Hancock argues, is that marine biologists appear to be more interested in exploring shipwrecks, and given that archaeologists don’t believe such a civilization existed 12,000 years ago, they don’t bother looking.

Which brings us to burial, specifically intentional burial. Stone structures cannot be directly dated, but if they are intentionally buried we can date the time at which that occurred. Just as the structures must be at least as old as the rise in sea level, the structure must be at least as old as the time of burial. This is precisely the circumstance we are in with respect to Gobekli Tepe — which turned out to be 11,600 years old, dating back to the very end if the Younger Dryas.

III. Death and Rebirth.

Assuming they saw it coming, the wealthy and powerful elite might have prepared underground cities, fled to mountaintops, or taken other measures to ensure the survival of select members of their civilization and the vast knowledge they had accumulated throughout their reign. Those who were not the elite would have perhaps been left in the dark and on the coastline to fend for themselves.

In one of his visits to the Joe Rogan podcast, Carlson asks us to imagine how survivors would manage and offers up Katrina as useful, small-scale model. Some people would organize into groups and work together, committing acts of heroism, as others would be possessed by barbarism, looting, destroying and raping as they made their merry way. It was also mentioned in one of these podcasts with Hancock and Carlson that hunter-gatherers likely existed alongside this lost civilization much as they have managed to exist alongside our own, albeit in frighteningly dwindling numbers. They would have also been far more likely to survive such a cataclysm than those dependent on advanced culture and many of the surviving members of the obliterated civilization would have perhaps been assimilated into those tribes.

After survivors organized into groups or assimilated into existing hunter-gatherer tribes, they would then establish towns, and finally — perhaps with the assistance of the elite, descending from the mountains and emerging from their subterranean hideaways — begin to rebuild civilization. In other words, what we see in the wake of the Younger Dryas may not be the budding moments of civilization, as traditionally thought, but rather a reconstruction effort aiming to conjure the phoenix from the ashes.

An example of this education and reconstruction effort, posits Hancock, is Gobekli Tepe, which is dated at just the end of the Younger Dryas, around 9,600 BCE. Located in Turkey and uncovered in 1995, it is the worlds oldest and largest megalithic structure, only 5% of which has been excavated as detected by ground-penetrating radar. It is composed of stone circles with two pillars at the center adorned in “high relief” carvings of animals and abstract symbols not associated with spoken language. It is the only known structure to align perfectly with north and south and also aligns with various constellations. The site was utilized for roughly 1,000 years before it was intentionally buried and became a hill.

The knowledge reflected in the structure, the scale of the operation as well as the efforts required to bury the site, as Hancock argues, suggests that these were not mere hunter-gatherers just transitioning to agriculture. Such a structure would require specialists with advanced knowledge in astronomy, honed talents such as how to carve, lift and position the stone and the ability to support and organize a large work force, implying not only a more advanced society based on agriculture but a gradual learning process.

Hancock believes that survivors of the lost civilization — people who had earned the knowledge and mastered such skill over a long period of time — came into that area and applied the knowledge they had inherited from their doomed civilization to guide the locals in building the place. It served as a sort of university, he speculated, where they could hand down the secrets of civilization to them. It may be the area where the civilizational reboot first occurred.

Despite my intuitive sense that our present civilization is doomed to collapse, I remain uncertain if civilization has undergone cycles of death and rebirth in the past as the lost civilization hypothesis proposes. In any case, I find it damned interesting. I also think there are advantages in entertaining and exploring the idea even if it turns out to be bogus, as it helps to realize how fragile our way of life really is despite our sense of mastery over nature. Its also interesting to think how we as individuals as well as a civilization may have lived and died many times and in many forms — and how our history may stretch back farther and be far more complex than we’ve dared to imagine.

The Nature of Child’s Play.

“Over the last couple of years, the photos of me when I was a kid, the ones that I never wanted old girlfriends to see… well, they’ve started to give me a little pang of something — not unhappiness, exactly, but some kind of quiet, deep regret. There’s one of me in a cowboy hat, pointing a gun at the camera, trying to look like a cowboy but failing, and I can hardly bring myself to look at it now… I keep wanting to apologize to the little guy: ‘I’m sorry, I’ve let you down. I was the person who was supposed to look after you, but I blew it: I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me.”
— Nick Hornby, High Fidelity.

“Well, then get your shit together. Get it all together and put it in a backpack. All your shit. So it’s together. And if you gotta take it somewhere, take it somewhere. You know, take it to the shit store and sell it, or put it in the shit museum. I don’t care what you do, you just gotta get it together. Get your shit together.”
— Morty, Rick & Morty.

Towards the end of my high school career, when I finally went to see a psychologist regarding the strange memories and experiences that had come to envelop my life, I did so with some trepidation. My limited experience with social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists had suggested to me that they could have just as easily been patients, and I feared this guy may just serve to reinforce my opinion. It turned out I was wrong. He was intelligent, passionately interested in the subject matter, and seemed to have a firm footing on more than one reality at a time. Though part of me was quite happy that he wasn’t judgmental, he seemed very careful about revealing any thoughts he had on my experiences. I knew I had to corner him, and I did, insisting that he tell me what he thought my flashback regarding the Doctor was all about.

This was a flashback that occurred somewhere on the bridge between 1994 and the following year. By that time I had remembered a wide variety of strange incidents and odd dreams, but it was nothing like what happened that evening. Unable to get any shuteye, I had been staring at my lava lamp while in bed and it suddenly seemed to have almost psychedelic effects on my vision, which was waving like the surface of a pond. When my eyes landed on a book on the shelf attached to my bed, a book I have yet to read — War of the Worlds, by HG Welles — I was instantly somewhere else, somewhen else. Later, when I would read Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Slaughterhouse Five, I was instantly reminded of the intense flashbacks I began having that evening. It wasn’t just remembering, it was reexperiencing.

Despite the length, this is the most condensed version I can muster. In this flashback, I had re-experienced hiding beneath my bed around five or six years of age. This I determined due to the leg braces I was wearing and the fact that I had worn them for a little under a year when I was a kid. From beneath the sheets and blankets hanging over my bed, I watched these creatures, some of whom had three toes, as their feet pitter-pattered across the carpet. They seemed to be going through things in the room, picking things up and examining them. Afraid they would eventually find me, I tried to scoot myself even further under the bed, but one of my braced legs hit a large box my parents had my sisters and I always keep there. It contained our drawings, report cards, and other such things. This not only made my leg abruptly jut out from beneath the bed, but made a loud noise for added effect. I winced and the silence in the room was deafening. When I finally opened my eyes again, I saw the feet and legs of one of the creatures standing by my braced leg, reaching down three, long, tan-colored fingers to touch it. Instantly it reminded me of the closing scene in the 1950s film War of the Worlds, which was my favorite movie at the time.

Certain for some reason that they would make me forget, with determined eyes I scanned this creature from his feet to his face so that one day, when my talents were good enough, I’d be able to draw him. I have in the years since, but I can never seem to get it right. I do know that he had eyes akin to those of a human’s, which is to say a white sclera, a yellow or brown iris, and a black-as-death pupil. His had a pug nose and his face was etched with deep wrinkles. His most memorable feature, however, was a long, deep-set, almost cartoonish frown.

Upon meeting his eyes, we were suddenly communicating mind-to-mind. They were scientists, I understood, and he was The Doctor. He was very old, very wise, and in some way served as a grandfather to me. After this, which seemed to be a form of internal yet interpersonal dialogue, I next found myself in a setting that seemed to be my room, but not quite. I was sitting down by my bed, looking up at the Doctor, though now he was different. He wore glasses that magnified his eyes instead of bearing eyes that were naturally that size, as was the case before. He wore a long white lab coat, had a stethoscope around his neck, held a clipboard and his cartoonish frown was inverted into a Cheshire grin. He told me that they just needed to run some tests, that this was just a check-up.

As he said all this, he seemed to be standing in front of me in a way that suggested he was purposely obscuring something, but all I could make out from behind him were bright lights, indecipherable chatter and a lot of activity a short distance away in my room. I also couldn’t ignore my growing suspicion that this was all a sort of dream we were sharing, one that he was sort of shaping into a false memory or cover-story.

It was an incredibly real experience, somewhere between a memory and mental time travel into my younger body. I experienced this formerly-forgotten event as if for the first time, and it was only the first of two such flashbacks I’d have that very night at sixteen. As my psychologist and I had been talking about the Doctor flashback, however, it was this that I so desperately wanted his opinion on, so I kept badgering him.

Finally, he let out a reluctant, “I think you had a confrontation with your Shadow.”

Though I knew what he meant, I had but a limited understanding of the concept. Before I had met him I had come across references to Carl Jung in my reading but had never read the words of the man himself. Around twenty years of age, I became rather obsessed with the ideas I found in The Portable Jung, however.

Jung referred to the total personality of an individual as the psyche, which he then broke down into three levels that constantly interacted with one another. The conscious mind, sensibly enough, would constitute everything we’re aware of at the moment. It’s the only sector of the psyche we ever experience directly. Regardless as to whether we have a present sensory experience, remember something or have a dream, we must experience it through consciousness. The personal unconscious is the basement or attic of psyche, the graveyard of the forgotten and repressed or dissociated. It is the giver of dreams and memories, shaper of perceptions, keeper of habitual behavior, passions and tendencies.

He saw yet another level to the psyche, however. Having studied myths from across the world, he saw recurring stories, themes and symbols, and in studying his patients, he saw many of the same themes and symbols manifesting in their dreams, fantasies and behaviors. In an effort to explain this, he posited the collective unconscious, composed of what he referred to as archetypes.

There are two ways of explaining archetypes that make some sense to me, and the first is a useful metaphor. Say that consciousness is a sheet of paper and all of our thoughts, emotions, and memories are iron filings sprinkled atop it. An archetype would constitute a magnet below that paper, arranging those iron filings in a pattern. The pattern of the iron filings provides the only evidence we have of the magnet, however, which we cannot perceive or interact with directly.

Another way of explaining archetypes is to compare them to instincts. They may, in fact, be extensions of them, but even if that’s not the case they serve as a useful metaphor. Upon reading The Portable Jung around twenty years of age, I remember Jung describing how a particular insect was driven to enact incredibly complex behaviors devoid of any training, which was essentially what he saw in his patients. Archetypes may then be seen as a bulk of instincts shared by the species that not only organizes behavior into specific patterns but also governs psychological forms and processes. As a consequence, they manifest not only in our behaviors and relationships but also in the realm of the imagination as well: our personal dreams, projections, hallucinations and delusions as well as in our literature, artwork, myths and religions.

While the manifestations differed from culture to culture and from individual to individual, they did so under certain constraints and in accordance with certain guidelines akin to how instincts function. Like instincts, archetypes are not learned but inherited, not personal but the legacy of our species. Like instincts, they cannot be directly observed, only inferred by their influence, their manifestations, how they arrange behavior and symbolic imagery. Unlike instincts, however, at least as popularly conceived, they influence not only behavior but psychology. It seems to me, as it did when I first read it, that archetypes are really the logical extension of instincts. Why wouldn’t they structure and animate the mind as they inspire and structure behavior?

In any case, Jung argued that these archetypes had a huge influence on the life of every individual and we must gain an understanding of them. To grow, to evolve as individuals, we must make the unconscious conscious, we must expand our consciousness. He warns us not to ignore the archetypal manifestations or to identify with them, but to become aware of them, to subject them to analysis.

All archetypes have a bipolar nature, which is to say they have within themselves what we might categorize as positive and negative qualities. Each archetype is also paired with a polar opposite, or shadow, and their relationship is one of interdependence. Whatever archetype we embody and personalize becomes our Ego, then, which casts its corresponding Shadow into our unconscious minds. The Shadow is essentially the anti-ego, serving as a collection of all we have repressed or have failed to bring out of latency in our conscious personality. We all bear both archetypes, but the degree to which each influences us varies in each individual and over time — and to have an excess of either is to live a life out of balance.

If the Doctor really was my shadow, then, at least at that point in my life, what kind of shadow was he — to what archetype did he correspond? If he constitutes an archetype at all it would by necessity be the Senex, which is Latin for old man. In his positive form, he often manifests as a mentor, wizard or shaman. Merlin, Obi Wan and Yoda are all often-cited examples. Disciplined and wise, he has often come from a distant, foreign land to offer knowledge and guidance. In his negative form, he takes the form of a tyrant, hermit or ogre who is bitter, brutal, greedy and stubbornly resists change. Rigid thinking, strict rules, harsh discipline and hierarchy are emphasized. He’s concerned with time, tradition and science. Prone to taking things seriously, he seldom if ever laughs or seems to enjoy himself. He is cold and distant, associated with depression, winter and death. With his frown, his interest in science, his status of a doctor, his claim that he was both wise and old to the extent of centuries and his clearly alien nature, the Doctor fit the negative end of the Senex polarity a bit too close for me to ignore.

Whether I was projecting the Senex onto the creature or the creature was purely a manifestation of my diseased mind is up for grabs, but at the archetypal level it doesn’t change the insight this might offer me about myself. Nimi, the female alien who used to come and visit me, typically at night, once told me that I was an Artist, that art was my “work.” If I am an Artist, it makes perfect sense that the Doctor, leader of his team of Scientists, would have served as a manifestation of my shadow. I am more creative and emotional; he is more logical and intellectual. As I said earlier, opposite archetypes attract — and Senex would serve as the shadow or antithetical archetype for the archetype Jung called Puer Aeternus, or the “eternal boy.”

Appropriately, the Puer is the predominant archetype when we are young and it focuses on play, as it is through play that we experiment, explore, and ultimately discipline our mind, develop our imagination, master our body and adapt to our environment. The Puer also has a bipolar nature, of course, and at the positive end of the pole you have the Divine Child, reflected in the mythical birth stories of figures such as Heracles, Horus, Cupid, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Krishna, and the Buddha. It can manifest as an adult with childlike qualities like Raymond from Rain Man, or a child with adult-like qualities like Calvin from the Calvin and Hobbes comic, Linus of Peanuts fame, or Allie Keys from Steven Spielberg’s 2002 Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, Taken. Despite coming into this world weak, vulnerable, and dependent on others to satisfy his needs, the Divine Child is powerful in that he attracts the attention of others, inspiring them, bringing joy, wonder and hope for the future. In its positive form, the Puer brings joy and wonder. He is optimistic and fun-loving, curious and creative, idealistic and insightful.

He is also fertile with possibilities and rich with potential, but this is but a temporary condition in our youth by necessity. Jordan Peterson explains that we have more neural connections at birth than we do at any other time in our lives, but that in that state we are essentially low resolution, latent potential. We contain possibilities and probabilities but are nothing for certain at all. Just within two years, however, we lose most of those connections, which he describes as akin to dying into your childhood personality. This is just the first period of neurological pruning we will experience as we grow, a process in which neglected associations are snipped away and only those that have been repeatedly reinforced remain. Use it or lose it: this is evidently how the brain develops what Huxley referred to as it’s “reducing valve.” With each brush-fire of the brain, the dead wood is burned away and our perceptions and character narrow further, specializing, adapting to the specific environment at hand.

As we develop, we come to see things increasingly less as objects and more as “shadows,” as Peterson puts it, though I think Colin Wilson hit closer to the mark when he used the word “symbols.” These symbols are only complex enough to let us do what we need to in order to survive and achieve our goals, little to nothing more. They are mental maps of sufficient detail: no more, no less. In terms of personality, our character becomes more solidified, which is why the hands that mold us when we are still soft are so influential. We further develop a relatively narrow set of unconscious and automatic programs triggered by familiar stimuli, or what Wilson refers to as the Robot Function. It happens again at the end of adolescence, between sixteen and twenty, where you die into the specialized, adult personality into which you are reborn with senses fine-tuned to your surroundings. When approaching adulthood, you settle on one role to the exclusion of all others. You adopt an apprenticeship, and so enter into an extremely narrow and limited training period that develops the appropriate skills. You become more competent at a specific set of things but become largely blind to all else.

Once we’ve adapted to life, after we’ve died to ourselves to do so more than once, we achieve the last half of life. We become the Senex. It is here that Carl Jung thought the proper path in our ongoing development was to come out the other side, that the head of the serpent had to swallow its tail. To adopt the positive qualities of the Senex, the old man must rediscover the child he once was and left behind and reintegrate him into his character. His work now involves opening old doors and rediscovering the world again, accessing new possibilities and regaining his capacity to play. He finds his source of enthusiasm, peace, creativity and joy for life. He not only gets to be what he has earned but regains the potential of the child he was forced to abandon in the process.

In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept known as Shoshin, or “beginner’s mind,” which is essentially a state in which you regain your lost sense of virginity to experience. Free of preconceptions, you approach something in a very present, open and enthusiastic manner. A much-quoted line from Shunryu Suzuki’s book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, summarizes it nicely, explaining how “in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” This has clear ties to the positive aspects of the Divine Child and how an adult may integrate that aspect of themselves back into their personality.

This is not, however, the only form and path of the puer, nor is it the one most familiar to me, as I shamefully discovered months ago and has finally begun to set in. It was unnerving to watch a YouTube clip of Jordan Peterson profile the Peter Pan personality type. With every following word, I felt my wince tightening, my heart dropping further, my body sinking deeper into the sofa. My hand went to my forehead as if I were attempting to hide my face from someone in my empty apartment. With every following word, it became increasingly freaky, increasingly clear that he was talking about me. It was the story of the immature man-child, the old infant.

Pan is Greek for “everything,” which is appropriate enough, Peterson tells us, as he is the boy who refuses to grow up. He passionately strives to maintain the latent potential of childhood and resist the actuality of adulthood. This is largely due to his only available adult role model, Captain Hook, who is being chased by a crocodile with a clock always tick-tocking away in its belly. This Peterson refers to as the dragon of chaos, time and death, residing beneath everything. It has already bitten off his hand, in which place he has put the hook that earned him his name, and now the tick-tocking croc has got a taste for him. This, he explains, is a metaphor for what happens when you get older: time keeps biting off pieces of you and sooner or later, it will fulfill its destiny and devour you entirely. Just as a sense of mortality can spawn in some people, this circumstance with the croc traumatizes Hook so much he tries to increase his sense of control over everything, exerting power through cruelty, and so becomes at once a coward and a tyrant.

Seeing Hook for who he is, Peter Pan understandably refuses to end up that way, generalizes Hook as a characterization of adulthood as a whole and so naturally elects to extend his own childhood indefinitely. He flies off to Neverland, a place that doesn’t exist, to become King of the Lost Boys, which Peterson describes as a band of losers who can’t get their act together. Then one day it seems that his Shadow (which Peterson never seems to mention, despite being a fan of Jung and despite some clear correlations with the archetype of the same name) has somehow become detached from him and led him to London, into the bedroom of Wendy. She proves to be a mature girl that accepts her mortality and wants to have children one day. He sacrifices a potential relationship with Wendy, a real girl, however, and continues to content himself with Tinkerbell, an imaginary substitute, essentially the Fairy of Pornography, as Peterson suggested.

Though I’ve never read or heard it serving as an example, I think Rob Fleming, the lead character in Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity (and the subsequent 2000 film), certainly qualifies as a puer. There were two lines in that movie that articulated what Peterson’s saying here in a different way. One involved keeping options open to ensure you can always back out and never get trapped in something; the other, his realization that committing to nothing constitutes suicide by small increments.

A man in the grips of this shadow aspect of the puer aeternus detests restriction and oppression and values liberty and independence. He covets individuality and personal liberty. Individual freedom to the fullest extent. Unrestrained instinct, chaos and intoxication excite him. Limitations, restrictions and oppression are intolerable. He refuses the call to adventure into maturity, shying away from adulthood. Fearing commitment, this emotional adolescent forever extends his “temporary” life because he fears that in making a move he might lose himself and be caught in a trap of a career or imprisoned in a marriage.

Peterson emphasizes the fatal flaw in Peter Pan’s presumptions: you grow up whether you want to or not. Though you can postpone maturity in our culture without suffering an immediate penalty, Peterson stresses, the penalty accrues, and then when it finally hits, it hits much harder. You can be lost and clueless at 25, as it’s acceptable that you’re just trying things out at that age. When you’re instead in your 30s or 40s, people tend to be less understanding. You a have become a 40-year-old King of the Lost Boys, a man-child, an old infant, a living corpse of a child. So you might as well manifest some of that potential in a particular direction and choose to become something as opposed to nothing.

I’m 39. I’ll be 40 this November. Many who know me would undoubtedly say quite confidently that this is me in a nutshell. Since shortly after my high school career came to a close in 1997, I began referring to adulthood as the 13th grade and arguing that adults did not, in fact, exist. What we took to be adults were just children wearing masks, putting on costumes and trying to play the roles the culture tells them to play. They aren’t mature adults, they’ve just achieved that state of “seizure” a child experiences when playing a game of “as if,” as Joseph Campbell has put it, though not in this context. They mistook the game for reality, their masks for their true and original face, their roles for their souls. I always refused to do any of that. I opted out.

My most recent experience on psilocybin mushrooms seemed to communicate, among other things, that reality was a sort of multifaceted illusion, sort of a system of games, and the appropriate response was not to forfeit but to play. This resonated with the “child” theme that has followed me throughout my life and took in a rather life-like quality in the context of my strange experiences just shy of two decades ago. The ultimate message in the psilocybin experience was to play the game we call society or culture, to try and make this ride a meaningful one, to take these games seriously while simultaneously keeping in mind that it was all illusion and was ultimately of no consequence.

Now I find that the observations of those such as Jung and Peterson seem to suggest that it is futile to forfeit the game anyway, for in doing so you turn into precisely what I have become: an old infant, a man-child. Peter Pan in the flesh.

As additional reinforcement, there remains the fact that I’m still not convinced that a single, actual adult exists on earth. I still think our game is essentially stupid, but I am beginning to regret not having taken the game seriously, not choosing a role to play and having time force me into a rather pathetic and meaningless one. I’ve resisted intimate relationships, kept friends and family at an arm’s length, and have remained in an extended “temporary” job more suitable for high school kids. Fast food should serve as a sort of “scared straight” program to inspire kids to go to college and make something out of themselves so they don’t have to suffer this fate into their forties. For some, it’s worked out just fucking dandy; evidently, it has failed to work for me to this point. I’ve forfeited the game and remain here in a fast food McNeverland just because I’m afraid to play the role of the adult.

I should have identified an appropriate adult role for myself right out of high school, but I was too wrapped up in the craziness of what had happened, too depressed and anxious, too damned undisciplined and unstructured. I thought that of myself even then. I could have finished college when I finally went in my thirties, but the crippling anxiety that shot through the roof when I again attempted public speaking paralyzed me and I fled. I could have been a master of the visual arts and writing by now, translating what is in my mind more effectively. I might be living off my passions and expressing myself through play as a way of life.

I fucked up.

After enough sessions, the aforementioned psychologist gave me a homework assignment: to master the mundane. He told a tale of students going off on a vision quest, receiving a profound one, and returning to their master, excited for the next step, invariably disappointed when the master told them to chop wood and carry water. I needed to have my feet planted firmly on the ground, he told me. I needed a career, friends, a girlfriend. What he was saying makes more sense now than ever: I needed to go through the process Peterson described. And I didn’t, not really, and here I am, two decades later, with an inner child deserving of an outer adult to nurture it — an outer adult I have I have utterly failed to develop and provide.

On Memory Issues With Strange Experiences.

The most unusual experiences of my life were ones that occurred when I was stone cold sober, though they certainly share certain qualities with my psychedelic experiences. In each category, the most frustrating obstacles deal with memory and translation.

Memory is problematic enough by nature and it doesn’t help matters that it is truly all we ever know of experience. Sorry, my dear Buddhists, but we know of no Here and Now. We are always living in the past. There is a time delay between when our bodies receive stimuli and when we experience it, a fact that I think Sam Harris has exemplified pretty well.

As he has explained, when I extend my arm to touch something the signals clearly have a longer journey to the brain than, say, when something brushes my nose — yet if I take my own finger and boop my own nose, I seem to experience both my finger touching my nose and my nose being touched by my finger in tandem. No apparent delay. How? Well, my brain waits until it has all relevant data before providing me with my perceptual experience.

Our immediate perceptual experience, then, is sensory memory, and so we are always living in the past.

On top of that there is the possibility that every time we remember something we are in actuality recalling our former memory of it. In other words, with every subsequent occasion in which we recall something it decreases in accuracy. This may not be the only way in which we can remember, of course — there may be ways in which that root, sensory memory can be directly accessed and it is only that this memory-of-a-memory chain is simply more economical and becomes a sort of default as a consequence — but without knowing how to switch gears or at least differentiate between them, we’re still left with the problem. We’re still left to rely on our increasingly inaccurate memories and often trust them too blindly.

In some instances, however, we aren’t even granted what ultimately constitutes false memories but are instead left with hazy recollections or, worse, no memory at all, save for perhaps remembering that there was something profound that has been forgotten. The easiest example is transitioning from the state of dreaming to awakening — or the similar experience of transitioning from being high on a psychedelic to being sober.

Why are carrying over those memories so damned difficult, however? Part of the issue, I suppose, is that in these cases we have to rely on memory greatly, even entirely, because leaving the state of dreams or the psychedelic-saturated sensory landscape takes away the environment (or the state-dependent perceptions of our environment) that would otherwise assist us in triggering any associated memories.

It may also be a translation problem, which is to say it may not only be that the memories themselves are state-specific but that the manner in which we were feeling, thinking and perceiving while dreaming or while under the influence of a psychedelic may be so distinct from our typical, awakened, sober mode of consciousness that they are lost in translation.

On the shroom trip some things seemed so clear, so self-evident in that state, but later seemed frustratingly out of reach. I get the sense sometimes that these experiences are allergic to language — much as is the case in my unusual sober experiences. It even seems at times that the experience becomes even more confusing as a result of my attempts to understand it.

Renegade Homunculi and the Tug-o-War Puppet Leader of the Soul.

Though it was an amazing trip, there were some scary parts (or at least frightening implications) of this most recent psilocybin mushroom experience, namely the creeping sense I had that my identity was composed of populations of personalities typically veiled from my inner eye, —

“Pay no attention to the gibbering homunculi behind the curtain.”

— that most if not all of what I took to constitute my identity was in fact a consequence of the interactions between these underlying personalities rather than any actual conscious deliberation of my own. The thoughts that I thought were the end products of conversations between various, underlying personalities, or so I seemed to observe. Extensive and detailed processes went into and underliewhat I experienced as the most minute decisions and behaviors. To me, this suggested my sense of personal freedom and individual will was a total illusion and all that I typically considered to be myself was actually produced and governed by the interaction between these lower intelligences. Later I also felt some discomfort when it was implied that I was not only a product of many lesser intelligences but a tool for a higher intelligence as well.

I was a marionette with strings being pulled from two directions.

Am I a passenger dumbly believing he’s the driver? And who am I, anyway?

Is the soul naked awareness, devoid of any individual characteristics? Is this the deepest part of who we are, our ultimate nature, perhaps the only thing we are when we have rid ourselves of all false identifications? The thought is more than slightly terrifying: that I might be someone else could be conceivable, that I might be something more is expected, but to be nothing? To be nothing but awareness, nothing but pure being at the core — to have that the only true and permanent aspect of I? I didn’t suspect it and the experience that seemed to suggest it was one that I never could have imagined.

At one extreme point in the trip, I had the sense that there was nothing left that I’d formerly identified with that I could truly call my own. I was a soul without an Original Face. I got that frantic, desperate impulse to grab ahold of something, to anchor myself, to find something to stand on or lean against to steady myself, but there was nothing there to hold onto.

Did it matter? I mean, fuck, was there anything to steady?

Is it that I’m truly nothing with awareness, or was it only that my means of feedback had gone haywire, that something had disturbed this fluid mirror I call my mind and I could no longer discern the reflection of my own face despite the fact that it was still there?

I hoped for the second.

I thought to myself that this experience might be giving me a good idea of what schizophrenia or some similar mental disorder is like — assuming my brain didn’t stay like this permanently because the psilocybin triggered some latent psychosis in me or something. I didn’t expect that, but by ruling it out prematurely I feared I might be asking for it.

My remaining comfort throughout the experience was that my mind would have settled and my feedback would return after I got some sleep and woke up the following morning. I just wanted to wake back up as me. Or the personality I’d formerly identified as me. Whichever. So I was quite relieved when all was back to the familiar abnormal when I awoke.

I don’t believe that what I experienced was egolessness, but it was certainly closer than I had ever been to that state and it certainly felt as if I were on the precipice. I can’t help but wonder if my mind is a mirror as I’ve always assumed or whether it might instead be a portrait painted by the populations of homunculi hidden in the shadows of my psyche. I float along the river of life that stretches betwixt womb and tomb thinking I’m at least rowing, at least having a hand or two in guiding my own vessel, but am I really the captain of this flesh-vessel or just a tug-o-war puppet leader a bit too caught up in his role?

As I continue on with my short meditation sessions, following the breath for fifteen minutes every day before leaving for work, indifferent to loose thoughts running through my mind and quick to disengage with ones I get mindlessly absorbed in and return to the sensations of air going in and out through my nostrils, I can’t help but wonder if there really is a true face behind that inner eye. All these thoughts I try to witness from a third person point of view: are they obscuring my identity, or do they constitute layers of a thick mask hiding a big, bleak, no one?

Shrooms, Lemons, and Lila.

“If Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness does not include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence is not worth the hemp it was written on.”
— Terence McKenna.

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
— Pema Chödrön.

4/6/18

I had an eighth. I ate about half of the bag, then felt wary about finishing the rest. After washing that down with some Arizona tea, I smoked a cigarette as I watched the first episode of Planet Earth II. By the end of that smoke my confidence recovered a bit, so I had a bit more, guzzled some more tea and had another cancer stick. Around then I achieved that point where I thought it began hitting me, but I wasn’t entirely certain whether or not I was fooling myself. As I continued watching animals interacting on my Roku, I suddenly remembered having added a YouTube video to my “watch later” folder — a segment of a speech by Terence McKenna in which he explained the Stoned Ape Theory. Halfway through watching that this feeling welled up in me, almost like a voice in my mind urging me to finish the rest of the bag and then go for one of the two lemons I’d stolen from work.

Standing up, it seemed unmistakable: I was feeling it. I went to the fridge, grabbed a lemon and sawed into it with a butter knife, then took half of it with me back to the papasan. After I sat down, it was like this mad, primitive frenzy overtook me. I tore into the lemon like a wild animal lost in the passion of its kill, sucking the blood out of some poor, defenseless prey caught in its claws. It was rather disturbing, even at the time, though at the same time kind of amusing.

In the midst of it I realized that I’d gone through this entire opening process before when doing shrooms: building up to the moment I begin eating them, stopping halfway through and considering not taking the rest of the bag, finally taking a bit more, ultimately finishing the bag and then going for the lemon and tearing into it with that wild, unrestrained fervor.

Though I had taken notes the first few times I had taken shrooms, I’ve slacked on doing so the last few times I’ve done them, which I’ve gotten down on myself about. I was also largely unsatisfied with the notes I’d provided for my first, full-blown experience on acid about two months ago, and so became determined to take notes during this experience. So after the lemon, at roughly 2:20 AM on Friday, April 6th, 2018, I lean back in the papasan, iPhone in hand, and begin typing.

Reality suddenly seemed charged with sexual energy. Being in my body felt erotic, even the simple act of moving felt sexy. This was only the beginning, but as I’d soon realize, there was so much sexual material in this shroom trip, just like LSD trip. As I had observed once before, when you deny yourself sex and try and push away the need, everything seems to become sexualized as a consequence.

As I enjoyed the experience, smoking my cigarette and typing, everything suddenly turned up another notch. Awareness intensified as my vision became incredibly bright, like someone flipped a switch and a high-watt bulb blasted on behind reality. Even that background static of silence seemed to be cranked up, heightening in frequency, the soft hiss achieving a higher pitch.

From this point on, everything came in waves: sensations and emotions would rise higher and higher, almost like the build-up during sex, but right before it seemed certain that I was about to burst through the ceiling and achieve some unfathomably intense, spiritual orgasm I’d be abruptly cut off at the climax and all would abruptly be calm again. Soon the wave rose so high that I felt like I could almost get lost in it, entirely surrender to it — and then, yet again: a sudden, peaceful calm, a plateau.

Grabbing my iPhone, I got out of Notes application, found Voice Memos and spoke into the microphone. “It’s 2:41 AM,” I said. “I’m probably going to find it difficult to keep writing, so maybe doing a voice recording would be a better idea. Things seem so erotic and comfortable right now. Very strange.”

As I looked at the ceiling, I found it waving and rippling like fluid or fabric, patterns emerging from the paint splotches. Though staring at it was astounding in and of itself, moving my line of sight across it was even more breathtaking. It was akin to what I had experienced when staring at the ceiling on LSD, but that was more rigid and mechanical, whereas this struck me as more organic and beautiful. Simultaneously I felt what I described as a mosaic of various emotions, a mishmash of moods stitched together and bleeding into one another. Some of those emotions were gross or negative ones, but they all seemed wrapped up and glazed in this overall emotion or mood that seemed to cleanse all the ones it contained.

Suddenly remembering that I wanted to listen to music, I pulled up YouTube on my Roku and found the full Tool, Lateralis album, which I had listened to while I was on acid. Shortly thereafter I paused it, grabbed my iPhone and went to the fridge for the other half of the lemon. As I did so, I commented on how I was clutching the phone and speaking to it as if it were my best friend, which instantly reminded me of carrying around my small, black, micro-cassette recorder on those sleepless nights during high school. Given the flashbacks, in light of all these puzzle pieces of the past that had surfaced, I had diminished confidence in my memory, so the recorder became sort of an external hard drive for my mind. I principally used it to document any memories that surfaced or any unusual, real-time activity, but it also served as a confessional, and in many ways served as this app on my iPhone did: as my little friend, mute and non-judgemental, to whom I spilled so many secrets.

After grabbing the lemon out of the fridge, I realized that I had to pee, so I brought along the lemon with me to the bathroom. Walking felt strange. Entering, I remarked how strongly it smelled of pot on there, did my thing, and then washed my hands, trying desperately not to look in the mirror. I tend to get transfixed like a stoned Narcissus when I chance a glance at my reflection under the influence of psilocybin. I sat on the lid of the toilet and decided to smoke a bowl, and found that sitting down felt strange as well. I found myself gazing at the shower curtains my mother had recently gotten for me, depicting trees, and thought on how Bill Hicks had said that when you do shrooms, you should go to nature. I suddenly understood it, as even the artificial greens of the trees seemed to produce profound calm in this state. I’d like to do it in nature as long as in a safe and secure location where I wouldn’t be interrupted, however, and that can’t be guaranteed, so my apartment it is.

I noted that everything I sensed seemed to have a little spice to it, by which I meant that enlivening, pin-prickling kind of sensation I like so much about hot and spicy foods like chili and Mexican foods in general. It even manifested visually in the form of tiny, multicolored points of bright light that would pop into existence at seemingly random areas of my visual field before swiftly vanishing back into the ether from whence they came.

Staring at the barren bathroom wall right in front of me, I noted the elaborate designs overlaying it like a transparent, three-dimensional film, or as if it were even carved into the wall itself. The only thing that betrayed this illusion and momentarily banished it was trying to focus on the details of the design. Given I had now seen this general effect on both my ceiling and my wall, I was curious to see if I might also perceive designs overlaying paper. If I set up some blank sheet of paper to the easel in my bedroom, would I be able to trace the designs? This curiosity was soon forgotten when my eyes shifted to the ground right outside of my bathroom door, into my dark bedroom, to see the same effect take place on the carpet. It was then that I again noted that along with these hallucinatory designs came the mosaic of emotions, which in turn made me wonder if this constituted synesthesia.

As I finally bit into and sucked the juicy life out of the lemon, I reflected on how everything seemed so fucking cool, interesting, hyperreal, but how it was all so frustratingly difficult to articulate. Everything also seemed like such a journey: the distance between the papasan to the fridge and to the bathroom, and even what a journey it was to articulate all that to my nonjudgmental confessional.

Done with the lemon, I now turned to the bowl, and the first hit felt incredibly good. Mushrooms and cannabis mingle nicely. In staring at the shower curtain, I again did what I had done during my LSD experience. Looking at the shower curtain, I was admiring how the drug in my system was able to exaggerate the movements of something already moving only to realize that it was not, in fact, moving at all. On acid, it had been the cover for Lateralis as depicted on the YouTube video, which I found, to my surprise, had not been moving at all. Now it was the waving fabric of my shower curtain. This time, however, the movement seemed to have an erotic element to it — but then again, everything did. I finally decided to take a second and much-delayed hit from my bowl, after which I entered into an exceptionally strange period of the night.

Later, while listening to the recording to transcribe it, I could hear the flick of the lighter, my inhale and exhale. Then there was a stretch of silence. I didn’t even cough, which is highly unusual for me despite the fact that I smoke pot on a daily basis. After that stretch of silence, for all I know I may have paused the recording and then picked it up later to add the additional two minutes before closing the audio file, but I honestly don’t think I did. In any case, the long stretch of silence is suddenly interrupted by a moan and this incredibly loud slap that makes me jump every time I listen to it. Perhaps I dropped the phone? After that there is a long period of muffled noises and scraping, and in the background I could just barely hear myself speaking, as if the speaker was being muffled and it made my voice sound like mumbling. I don’t think it was in the breast pocket of my flannel, because I was still in the bathroom when I recorded what happened next and the muffled voice suddenly went clear.

In what I could piece together from what I could make out of the tape and what it subsequently triggered to memory, my consciousness was suddenly “somewhere else.” I remember being on the ground in a dark place, looking up and around me to find myself surrounded by a circle of spirits, or so I called them. They encircled me in a stonehenge-like fashion and I felt as if I were part of some ritual. There was a female, taller than the rest, with whom I had a conversation, at the end of which I remembered expressing to her how I wanted to remember all of this but was afraid that I’d either freak out and doubt the experience or forget that I’d even been there when I “went back.” She told me that when I went back I’d remember the general outline, and that this would trigger the rest of it, much like in the case of remembering a dream. In the end, it did function that way, but only in part, as I don’t remember the details of our conversation up to that point.

I’m glad I recorded this, as I immediately forgot about the incident.

I needed another cigarette, so made the journey back to the papasan. Once there, I switched back to the Notes app and began thumbing my thoughts once again. I noticed that I now felt as if I were rooted in this steady, solid, confident and powerful silence behind everything. It was that calm, slow, measured, precise undercurrent behind all my thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviors, an aspect of myself that I could only touch briefly in the rare heights I achieved within the context of my daily meditation. Though my sense was that I was always rooted there, I could feel it now and naturally identified with that aspect of myself. I felt that everything else was at a distance, that I was protected as if through some impenetrable wall of glass that buffered me from my mental contents and perceptions — both of which were getting rather wild at the time.

Reality seemed hyperreal and entirely surreal. Colors emerged out of nowhere and streamed across my field of vision, creative designs of exquisite beauty emerged out of the hairs on my forearm. In the midst of writing about how fast any movement seemed to be, how I felt like a ninja and saw trails, the bionic man sound chimed in crystal clear. Afterward, I tried to determine whether I had experienced it as an internally-generated sound or an auditory hallucination and was unable to attach a label to it: in this state, it did not feel as though there was much of a distinction to be made.

Within my mind it was just as weird. “It’s like being given a friendly, warm tour through the insane circus in your head,” I wrote, and then added a space before dedicating a line to two words I would repeat from this point on in my notes:

“Lila. Play.”

It was as if the boundary separating the conscious and unconscious, liminal and subliminal aspects of my mind had suddenly dissolved, leaving me in a truly psychedelic, truly mind-revealing experience. My thinking patterns as revealed in my writing became exceptionally strange. One or two lines would deal with one train of thought, then I’d hop to another track of thought, but ultimately return to the original track. I know I wasn’t visually referencing what I’d written before as at this point as I was thumbing away at the keypad non-stop, and I find it equally difficult to believe it was by memory. Instead, it seemed as though I was serving as a stenographer for multiple trains of thought chugging along in parallel, and since I couldn’t document all trains simultaneously, I just hopped back and forth from one mental track to another, riding multiple rails. The trains of thought were decipherable, however, and I was able to group them together in retrospect.

I repeatedly experienced déjà vu, to the point that I referred to it in my notes as “the new constant.” I felt certain that I had gone through specific, underlying thought processes before and in some cases, even the words I used to express them. Later, despite not having remembered that observation, I seemed to explain the mechanics of it all. It’s like I’m at first outside of the realm of thought and a stream of thoughts are presented to me to review as a whole from a third-person perspective. If I approve of them, I then enter the stream of thought, inhabit it and experience it from beginning to end from the first-person perspective as if for the first time, though there is that lingering sense of déjà vu. After I reach the end if the thought-stream I look back on it from a third-person perspective again, but now with the memory of having also experienced it from the first-person. I then feel embarrassed because the thoughts were so over-the-top dramatic and perfectly timed as if I was putting on a show for someone and came across as a really bad actor, as it all seems so pretentious and fake.

What seemed at one level to be deliberate and instantaneous thought I found at a deeper level to be the ultimate outcome of extensive subliminal dialogues between entities. I found myself wondering if I was truly anything more than the stenographer and translator of my thoughts. At one point I had thought to myself “I’ll try and catch that thought on the next swing around” and wondered if my thoughts were not only predetermined but cyclical. As time went on, I began describing deliberate thought as being very laborious, as if in order to think I had to think around and through a sort of obstacle course. One moment these mental gymnastics seemed exhausting; the next, I’d get another random, potent pulse of energy and found the strength to keep going. In the end, thoughts manifested in a form that reminded me a lot of poetry and it struck me that the manner in which I was taking my notes was akin to a linguistic totem pole.

I also found that my internal voice, my internal narrator, seemed to take turns embodying various stereotypical or archetypal characters. There were also swarms of lesser thoughts or voices breaking through, like there was a crowd in my mind, and I wondered: is this the way my mind is all the time on a subliminal level, and it’s simply that in this state that deep realm of thoughts have been given the psychological equivalent of a megaphone?

The aforementioned sensations of déjà vu extended to the realms I appeared to be visiting as well. Something as simple as grinding a cigarette butt into the ashtray on my red plaid lap would trigger my slippage into such a realm. It felt as though these places I kept falling into and stumbling my way back out of again were real, separate spaces that my consciousness had access to. Though I was skeptical of that intuitive certainty, I knew that the right approach was to let go, give in and enter the new space and play according to their unique rules as if it all were real, even if it all turned out to be a psychedelic ruse. Even in this act of play, however, I felt that buffer, that safe distance I felt in the “real” yet presently psychedelic world. I also felt as my identity itself was a world which I could occupy as a space or “be”.

Though I wasn’t able to ascertain whether I was traversing a complex webwork of parallel worlds or whether they were merely dreamlets, I felt as if the process of traversing these worlds as well as many of the worlds themselves were familiar territory, as if I was native to this manner of existence and had finally swung by through this sacred fungus to visit my home.

I wondered if I was experiencing the same things I ordinarily did, just handled and translated differently by my brain on account of the shrooms. It seemed as though the sensorium, which was typically predominant, was suddenly on equal footing with the realms of thought and emotion. All were just as real, just as potent. In addition, I again noted there was a cross-contamination between these equivalent sectors of experience, though I was no longer certain synesthesia was the right word for it. In any case, sounds, emotions and thoughts manifested as imagery, as scenery.

“Metaphors become real,” I wrote. “Analogies give birth to and end real lives. Our thoughts are people. There are villages of souls there. Patterns in my thinking become tangible, three-dimensional, like objects in themselves and so become more easily maneuverable.” I could also see my thought processes and patterns more easily.

Later, I also got the sense that, much as seemed to be the case with my thoughts, events in the external world were preconceived. Time only existed when you experienced the stream of events from a first-person perspective; outside, from the third-person perspective, all events already occurred and every origin and outcome could be known. I found it rather frightening and depressing — even from a young age, notions of determinism have always elicited that reaction from me — but then another thought intervened: “Kind of sucks, but buck up, sit back and relax.” I then referenced a Hunter S. Thompson quote that a friend of mine used to echo rather frequently: “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

Twice I mentioned how things that seemed polarized from the up-close, first-person perspective seemed utterly indistinguishable, void of all distinction from the distance offered through the third person perspective, particularly the dualities of happy/sad and slave/master.

I kept yawning in pleasure, my nose full of mucus and my eyes watering profusely. “It’s like having the bliss flu,” I wrote.

Elsewhere, one part of myself seemed to be offering me self-analysis and recommendations.

“Your emotions moods have so many ups and downs,” I found myself writing. “Stabilize. Find a more suitable environment. Find a better job. Finish and publish your book.”

I wrote, “Document the downfall. Just like you said from the beginning.” This was in reference to the feeling I got shortly after the “alien” flashbacks in high school, where I became possessed by the notion that we were going to experience a global catastrophe, after which those creatures would intervene. I always had the notion that I was supposed to “document the downfall” of our civilization.

“Fuck lost civilizations,” I also wrote, which was in reference to my recent research on Graham Hancock’s ideas, then going on to proclaim that I should instead “focus on this — the intricacies of interspace, telepathic lines of communication between spatially dissociated minds, even temporally associated minds.”

This seemed tied to how I later described the boundary dissolution I was experiencing as revealing intimate, infinitely complex interconnections with everything else. This brought thoughts of what my childhood friend, Nimi, The Teacher, had told me about a web stretching across the universe, connecting all souls. “I feel it now, vibrating inside and reverberating,” I wrote, “spreading outward like the ripples caused by a stone cast in a pond.”

Sexual desire erupted in me, possessed every fiber of my being and every aspect of reality, but the yearning had greater width and depth and greater intensity than I had previously experienced. Evidently in association with this and rest of the beautiful madness I was experiencing, I was reminded of that Nietzsche line:

“I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves.”

At least twice during this period I had the distinct sense that someone else was in the room with me, unseen but distinctly felt. At least three times in succession I had been flicking my lighter to light my cigarette and it seemed like someone else blew it out just before I could get my cigarette tip up to the flame. After I gave up, I discovered it was already lit. The second time I felt a presence, I simply wrote: “It feels like there is one other intelligence here aside from myself.” I remember asking out loud, “Who are you?” and half expected for someone to answer. Though I cannot be certain, I feel this had something to do with a disturbing line I later wrote:

“I am a tool for a higher intelligence? Fuck that. Fuck that. Is it real?”

Again and again throughout my notes, I came back to the subjects of play, of games, and of Lila, which was a word I’d vaguely recalled looking up before.

“Words are our playthings,” I wrote.

“Am I creating or describing, telling the truth or lying?” I asked, to which another part of me answered: “In play, ultimately nothing matters. You are immortal, infinite to it, yet left a derelict in the inconsequential game.”

“Struggle to think clearly,” I wrote some time later, “but this is all play. All of it. Games within games, don’t forget. Take it seriously but keep that awareness that underneath none if it matters. No matter how awake you think you are or I think I am, we are still asleep.”

Constantly throughout the experience I marveled at this — at my heightened awareness. I felt so awake, so alive, and only from the vantage point of that state of awareness did I realize how asleep I really am in life, how asleep we all are. In that state of consciousness, certain things seemed so clear, so self-evident — things seemingly inaccessible in the normal mental mode. Try as you might, however, you can’t really take it back with you, can’t effectively translate and articulate the insights.

“I’m trying to figure it all out, master this maze,” I write, “become lord of my labyrinth within.”

“Keep trying,” I write back to myself. “Keep your spirits up. Remember that it’s all play.”

“Break the code later,” I said, writing to myself again. “Get it all out first. Prima materia must first be gathered before alchemical operations can commence. It’s all play. Lila.”

“Lila,” I wrote for the final time. “Research it later.”

And so I have. There was a website I had visited many years ago that was called Lila, and I believe it dealt primarily with drug experiences. Interested in what the word meant, I had looked it up, but had since forgotten about it — at least consciously. I did remember that it had some association with Hindu philosophy. After a bit of research the last few days, I think I get the general gist.

From how I understand it, Brahman is conceived as having two basic forms, namely the unmanifest and the manifest. In it’s latent, unmanifest form, Brahman is pure and perfect awareness, the divine absolute. In manifest form, this entity becomes the ever-changing stage we call the universe, including all seemingly individual entities inhabiting it. This manifestation is accomplished through Lila, a Sanskrit term variously translated as drama, spontaneity, sport, or game, though most typically as divine play. Given its absolute perfection, it can attain nothing, so there is no driving motive, only spontaneous, aimless, creative and childlike play fashioned out of bliss. In this sense, it is both a detached observer and participant, engaged yet unrestrained, outside the universe and yet constituting the universe itself. To erroneously believe that this manifest play is the true reality we are said to be under the spell of Maya, or illusion.

I fell asleep that early Friday morning thankful for the experience but hoping it was in no way permanent, hoping I would wake up as myself, that my identity would be entirely restored, that I’d be able to think yet again in the traditional way. Aside from a strained feeling in my head that began the following morning and proceeded to follow me throughout the day, however, there seemed to be no ill side-effects.

Without doubt, it was my most mind-blowing psychedelic experience to date, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it.

Cycles, Conversation.

Done with it.
So over it.
Far passed time
to cut this tie.

Just need to find
myself and my place,
bathe in my own inner glow,
shine like a star,

but I’ve been
grounded, stretching
towards sky and water
in desperation
as roots
branch too deep
in the shit.

However done and over,
no clear way
out of this prison.

“Transitions
don’t come easy.

Letting go
takes a lot of strength
as bonds
can come to feel
like appendages,

their severance?
Psychic amputation.

Recognize the illusion.

In cutting an umbilical cord
keeping you bound
to these wretched cycles
as you enter another world,

perhaps you’ll finally
feel
alive again.”

Agents of Cosmic Deliverance.

Consider that an advanced civilization by our human standards would require a planetary environment that provides the right resources and an intelligent life form that evolves the body necessary to exploit it. Would we have been able to build our technological civilization without an energy resource like fossil fuels, for instance, and would other life-bearing worlds necessarily have fossil fuels to begin with? Even if an ETI had the required materials, would they necessarily be able to exploit it, or might the average ETI be something akin to a super-intelligent octopus or dolphin-like creature on an ocean world? Or a similarly intelligent elephant or crow-like creature on a super-earth?

Could it be that the universe is abundant with intelligent life, teeming with brainy aliens, and it’s just that most of that life has not evolved the appropriate appendages to fashion complex technology?

No matter how high their intelligence, they would never be able to sail the sea of stars above them. In fact, given the appropriate circumstances, they may never catch so much of a hint that such things as stars and a night sky even exist. For instance, they could be aquatic creatures on an ocean world in a multiple star system, bathed in the light of at least one star all the time. Cocooned in endless light pollution, they would be blind to the universe. If they are locked under ice like on the solar moons Europa and Enceladus, they may know nothing of the planet beyond their sheltered world, much less the cosmos as we know it, and yet may also be vastly more intelligent than us.

If this were the case, we may be the only hope for those exoplanetary prisoners. It may be up to us to go to the extraterrestrial super-geniuses. By approaching them gradually in stages that build up to careful first contact, we might dodge blowing their minds into a panic — and we might ultimately serve to release them from their frosty, liquid prisons and nightless lives and help them ascend the mountains and trees to the stars.

With them on our backs, we could introduce them to the vast universe that blubbering idiots like us were able to traverse on account of evolving our goofy hands with thumbs and fingers — without which our mediocre gray matter would reduce us to a relatively common creature, and so utterly useless to them. They’ve perhaps imagined all we’ve done and more, just never had the means to put it all into action — not until now, given we can successfully strike a deal with them.

The deal? They have to rely on us to introduce them to the universe rather than have us fix them up with complex, technological prosthetics. That’s the only way we could ensure that we wouldn’t be wiped out. Us domesticated primates wish to be saviors, after all, not martyrs.

It would be a good deal, though. Through them, we would gain vast knowledge; through us, they would gain vast access. Perhaps a religion would grow among mankind, central to their faith the idea that, as intelligent beings lucky enough to have evolved such appendages, it is our destiny to migrate to and thoroughly explore the far reaches of outer space so as to achieve our proper roles as the intergalactic uber drivers for aliens, as the cosmic cabbies for higher intelligence.

At least relative to current major religions, this would be a religion I wouldn’t mind infesting the minds of the masses. At the very least, it would inspire us to migrate to and colonize space.