“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.
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:
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.