Redactions.

Secrets inhibit freedom.

Without knowledge
we cannot make
informed decisions.

Truth need
not be comforting,
but it is necessary
for adaptation, vital
for survival.

You enslave
and endanger
us with your silence,

weaving
deceptions to fill
the vacuum,

to muddy the leaks,
fuel the ridicule.

Conspiracy breeding
further crime,
justifying its continuation.

Just as coverups
separate you from us,

and the disinformation
you spread separates
we, the people,
from each other,

compartmentalization
divides you,

and maybe
that’s what they wanted:

divided, conquered.

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Starving for Understanding.

Searching
through bootleg
memories

carried from times
long passed
(a long bag I’m dragging,
so fucking heavy),

skins formerly worn,
and at least
one world abandoned
in my prehistory,

embracing emotions denied,
analysis of tendencies,

then looking
at where I am
and who I seem to be,

striving to discern the patterns,
starving for understanding.

What am I hiding?

Why am I hiding
from myself?

The Vacuum of Stolen Memory.

Mindful of a gap,
you stop,
turn around, look

back to retrace your steps,
reflect on the journey

only to find the shadow
cast by your soles,
is growing,
enshrouding everything,

swallowing the trail,
eating up sea and land
in the ever-increasing distance…

Not again.
This time you shall
salvage
what you can, grab

the pen
to scribble
down, chant
to yourself to remember

as you focus
with determination,
aggressive passion
on something, anything,
in the attempt to forge

a vivid
and powerful
psychological bookmark,
a trigger to defeat
this unethical seizure,
this mental cover-up,

all as the darkness
accelerates
towards the horizon,

leaving
you a big blank
nothing

all as the fear, agony and anger
swiftly rushes in to fill
that vacuum of stolen memory.

Of Eyes & Energy.

Bodily glows: a light,
alive within, ’round,
and between. Energies

mingling, dancing,
repelling, wrestling
and resonating. A sea

of subtle energy.
An existential canvas:
the swirling background
to everything, amplifying

in eyes that whisper,
cast emotion, imagery
through locked gaze:
an interface. Whirlpools
that draw
in minds passed the event
horizon, spaghettify

all doubt
in telepathic
communication.

They do it to me:
the unearthly.
I’ve done it
spontaneously.

There’s got to be a way
to discipline, to initiate,

to communicate
this way
at will.

Oz.

Suddenly, fear creeps
in. Reality
penetrates, stings
like the cold.

Vision
becomes crystal
clear. Crisp. Silence, a deafening
hiss of nothing ripe
with anticipation.

It’s like I’m stuck
in a spliced still frame,
a frozen moment,
yet somehow endowed
with animation.

I’m left feeling like a rat
in a maze,
a tagged subject caught
in a trap,

an insect
under examination
by unseen eyes,

left waiting
for the other shoe
to drop.

Sex, Drugs and Weirdness.

As I’ve been antisocial in general for quite some time and honestly missed the guy, I finally hung out with my friend, Moe. I had just had my profound psilocybin experience the previous night but wasn’t prepared to say too much about it, as I had not had the time to process it to any length, but as we hung out and shot the shit in my apartment much of what we spoke of seemed to resonate with my trip.
I did tell him about taking shrooms, but as he didn’t ask, I failed to dispense with all the details. I told him I had just one more item on my drug bucket list — and I didn’t even have to name the substance.

“DMT,” he said. He didn’t even phrase it as a question.

He still had my book, DMT: The Spirit Molecule, which I desperately wanted to read again, too. My interest in the drug is due to its associations with the pineal gland, which is believed to manufacture DMT, perhaps playing a role in altered states such as dreaming, Near Death Experiences and, so some believe, alien abduction experiences.

Repeatedly over the course of my experiences there has been the repeating theme of Ajna, or the third eye, which corresponds to the pineal gland. I feel pressure there when I’ve meditated, had experiences involving it during my “astral projections,” and it has cropped up continuously in my spontaneous artwork. It is also associated with a sense of direction, which I certainly lack, and sleep cycles, and mine are almost always out of whack — so I’ve occasionally entertained the possibility that I have a malfunctioning pineal. To learn that it might be associated with DMT only served to increase my curiosity, and perhaps the aforementioned hypothesis.

My curiosity is whether the drug would replicate my “astral projection” experiences (which may have been a form of lucid dreaming, for all I know) or even my alien abduction experiences. Though I truly believe the alien experiences were physical ones, experimenting with DMT may prove otherwise. In any case, I need to know.

I also mentioned to Moe how both my acid trip and most recent shroom experience seemed imbued with sexual energy. In my life I’ve noticed a correspondence between sexual energy and certain seemingly paranormal experiences, so perhaps that explains the synchronicities that occurred in the days to follow. One occurred after I’d gotten the shrooms, I believe, but before I had taken them. This was when an article of mine which I’d written some time ago involving shrooms was quoted on another forum. Other coincidences occurred in the days that followed. On Facebook, I saw two posts within a few minutes, one by Anti-Media and one by Cyanide & Happiness, both involving magic mushrooms. Then, at 5 AM on April 10th, as I checked for videos below the porn I was watching, I saw a porno starring a woman going by the name of Lila — a word, meaning “play,” that I had written several times during my trip.

When I mentioned to Moe the sexual nature of the trips, he immediately asked me how long it’s been. I confessed that it has been my longest stretch since I first got laid in October of 1999: seven long, non-fucking years.

“Don’t make it a decade, man.”

Word.

Constantly I circle back to two things I need to do to improve my life. The easiest to confess is needing to get my unambitious ass in a better job by the time I’m forty, which will be this November. I’ve spent most of my life in shit jobs and over fourteen years in the fast food joint in which I am currently wading and wasting my life away in. If I’m going to be miserable, I might as well be making more money in the process.

Needing to get laid is a bit more difficult to admit, though I suspect it is at least as obvious. I kept telling myself I was happy being single and settled on the fact that it should stay that way. I no longer wanted that war of impulses waging in my head: I wouldn’t make a good boyfriend, had no interest in being a husband, and didn’t think I was responsible and mature enough to be a father. I didn’t like how awkward and self-conscious I felt when I began anything approximating an active pursuit of a female of the species, and typically as soon as I get in a relationship I feel trapped and want to be alone again. So given that context, not getting laid made sense: no chance of getting tricked into the delusion of love again, no pain when it ended, no chance of accidentally impregnating a girl. It seemed to be the safest, most logical route.

Despite that, I did find that I missed having a girlfriend. Sex is certainly a big part of it, and that reason alone would certainly not justify any attempt with a girl, but there were other things I missed. The closeness, the intimacy, the way being in a relationship with a girl I truly cared for made me feel more human somehow, more connected to the world, more real, even. It was an entirely different state of consciousness. Indeed, women were in many ways like an addictive drug, at least when I allowed myself to get close.

To me, though, all of that sounded just slightly less shallow and selfish than wanting a girlfriend for the sole purposes of securing sex. Or was I, as my friend Abbey once accused me, merely trying to rationalize away my humanity? Was all this just natural and I was being silly and immature fighting these impulses? It suddenly seemed as if that aforementioned internal war was still raging in me after all…

Though he is likely to debate the point, Moe has always had a way with women — and women had a way of emotionally scarring him. As similar as him and I were, as much as he seemed to be a brother from another mother, he had a degree of confidence and machismo I never really had. Occasionally I was jealous of it; I always admired it. His guidance in this endeavor, should I elect to go forward with it, would certainly be of great benefit.

He said that sometime in the near future we should go to a bar in town and maybe I could pick up a girl; though I said I probably would drink little to nothing at all, I was willing to give it a try.

Long ago I had noticed that when I didn’t get laid, everything became sexualized. It became a default metaphor for things. My jokes often referenced things of a sexual nature. Jung was right: what is repressed rather than properly expressed is projected. There seemed to be no escaping it.

So I might as well face it and deal with it.

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.

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.