This decade [the 90's], for all its literary goings-on, has produced few good, objective accounts of the psychedelic experience. In fact, we are faced with a wholesale extinction of the theme. Thirty years ago, every Tom Dick & Harry with a typewriter was banging out his revelations on spindrift sheets of blotter acid--among them, Hunter S. Thompson, Aldous Huxley, Robert Anton Wilson, et al. Nowadays, hallucinogens are merely mentioned in passing, as bay leaves tossed into the stew of a crazy time in one's youth.
David Sedaris writes:
"His remedy involved two hits of acid, a bag of ice cubes, and a needle. We split a pair of gold posts and sat hallucinating in the dormitory kitchen as a criminal-justice major pierced our ears."
Why don't we have any more serious psychedelic travelogues? Could it be that, after a deluge of writing on the subject, we figured out that everybody's trip is more or less the same? Perhaps, but I think fashion plays a role here too. The glamour of tripping out, while having been somewhat re-romanticized in last year's film, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, has given way to a fascination with "designer" drugs, opiate-addiction, and even alcoholism. The trend has swung back to: sinister = way cool.
However, if I may be so bold, I'd argue that the disappearance of psychedelic memoir is due to the fact that, these days, their use is largely confined to the 15-18 year old set--none of whom are to blame for volumes of great literature. A sixteen year old kid, dabbling in doses might, at best, write something like:
Its all water underneath. water all around. flowing smooth. Riding on this sphere...just slide. make your appearance, do your thing, exit existence. dont forget to laugh...where the pragmatic and the mystical collide and implode...wax and wane...a never ending flow... underscored by the everyday autonoma ... paisley protozoa glow iridescent in the fallout ... the world outside exists only as the beam of inquiry illuminates.. .electrical energy bounded and flowing down surging forth... in the void there is nothing... in the void there is everything, the id of the young, the shallow findings of the late night philosopher , the poet who is not... the twisted thoughts of tomorrows oppressors... there is but one train, piercing the midnight gloom, the passengers asleep, but for one, the vigilant anti-conductor... youd better watch your train...sheets of rushing energy, pulsing light of being, entity dynamic, fluid plane, silent explosion, one continuous naked infinity, eternal nothi!ng... scars of adventures in hyperspace...
Of course, this kid is me. The above is from a piece I wrote while tripping on three hits of "The Simpsons" acid, in 1993. For the latter five months of that year, and the first seven months of 1994, I gobbled up the writings of Timothy Leary and blew my poor little mind on biweekly "adventures in hyperspace."
I embarked upon the first of these from the Milan Dragway, near Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, on the ninth of July, was the local occurrence of the "Woodstock" of my generation--the Lollapalooza festival. We all recall the terrific heat, the arrests made by not-so-cleverly disguised narcs, the five-dollar bottled water, the mosh-pit casualties, thousands of plastic bottles, people, and clumps of sod thrown in the air at once, and the tornado that formed directly above the main stage, but did not touch ground. I recall grinning over a piss-drunk acquaintance, who lay puking in the sun-baked dirt, while I licked my palms and forearms. I also recall, about five hundred years later, laying in a clearing in the woods, staring up at the clouds, which were Rubensesque figures copulating and eating one another's heads.
But that's neither here nor there. I could go on forever recalling similar anecdotes, attempting to describe hallucinations and explain strange behavior--dude, it was sooo cool, like me and my friend thought it would be so funny to beat people with daisies, so we did, and there was this guy on TV and we thought he was made of eyeballs!
No. There is one particular experience that I need to fully recount, as I understand it, lest it remain forever anecdotal, late-night conversation stuff. What I want to do here is provide a truthful account, using Leary's 1964 text, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead as a reference.
One evening, to which I cannot pin an exact date--but the month was February and the year was 1994--my close companion Nick and I each took, in the interest of good fun, approximately 600 µg of lysergic acid diethylamide. The location was Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in the comfortably-appointed basement of Nick's parents' colonial-style home.
Now, it must be known to the reader that Nick and I were, as we are still, good friends; and having taken LSD in one another's company on many previous occasions, neither he nor I felt any apprehension about tripling our usual dosage. We considered ourselves "seasoned voyagers" upon whom such an "heroic" dose couldn't possibly have any adverse consequences. We felt so familiar with the territory, in fact, that further exploration was in order.
The clock on the basement wall read fifteen minutes past eleven when we dosed. Those who know acid know that the typical waiting period for the drug to take hold is one hour, give or take a few minutes. But at eleven twenty-five, it was in full effect--ten minutes after ingestion.
The light in the room, which would have seemed dim to other eyes, became unbearably bright. I sat down on a couch, and asked Nick to turn off the overhead fluorescents. As he stood by the light switch, I recall that he turned into a werewolf, and looked as if he would tear
me apart; but I dismissed this idea as so much silliness, and he immediately resumed his natural form--a form that seemed human, but was difficult to define, given the luminosity of the air.
All artificial light having been extinguished, and Nick having seated himself on the couch, there continued to be a clear, intense light present, though I could make out no recognizable forms in the room. In fact, I could not determine if I was in a "room" at all; and neither could I feel anything of a body, which led me to conclude that I had left it.
This phenomenon is referred to in The Psychedelic Experience as the "First Bardo, primary light seen at the moment of ego-loss." The Second Bardo followed, which is best described as a state in which "the individual becomes aware that he is part of and surrounded by a charged field of energy, which seems almost electrical." During this time I communicated, not verbally, perhaps in some way telepathically, with Nick. He reported to me that he was himself experiencing the same phenomena; but after the Second Bardo, I lost contact with him, and my experience diverged for a time from the model set forth in The Psychedelic Experience.
Now, what I am about to say is outrageous, and may arouse due skepticism in the reader; so I must first concede that my memories are, naturally, shaped by the language into which I must force them, and cannot be reported without some distortion, or risk of outright misrepresentation.
After the Second Bardo, my consciousness progressed through increasingly magnified states of awareness: first a state of cellular consciousness, in which I became aware of chemical processes within my own cells; whereupon I passed into a state where I directly experienced my DNA replicating at the molecular level; and finally, I came to a state of subatomic consciousness, which I can only describe as a calm, buzzing space, where I was aware of spheres--which I believe now to have been electrons--of seemingly absolute density, moving along fixed paths, some close enough to see and others remotely sensed. I could discern no nucleus.
It was beyond this state that "entities" communicated with me. I cannot very well remember this state, nor can I identify these entities; and furthermore, I do not recall what they said.
After an indeterminate time, I passed into the Third Bardo, the stage of "re-entry" into physical reality. There came a rush of visions--visions of muscle torn from bone, skin blistering and burning, screams and groans, teeth, dark orifices spurting fluid, and rank, hairy flesh fucking rank hairy flesh. When these diminished and finally ceased, I found myself once again looking through the eyes in my head, staring at the drop-ceiling, my jaw slack, my mouth dry, my arse planted sorely on the sofa.
Nick had, amazingly enough, "re-entered" at precisely the same time. We lifted our heads and looked at each other. Then we looked about the room, which was suffused with the a murky gray glow. Everything was there, just as it had been when we left, four hours previous.
Per The Psychedelic Experience, "less than one percent of ego-transcendent experiences end in sainthood or psychosis. Most persons return to the normal human level." Well, we weren't quite out of the woods.
For our final few hours under the drug's chemical influence--and I emphasize chemical, for one never fully "comes down" from an acid trip, if done properly--we held a conversation. Though we believed ourselves to be talking in a hushed tone, we were in fact shouting. Nick's head, throughout the discussion, assumed the most ridiculous proportions, elongating, expanding, contracting, as his eyes roamed freely about his face.
It was all very clear to us. We were members of the Illuminati.
There were only a handful of us, immortal souls, who had been important historical figures in our previous lives. Among our ranks were the Buddha, Aristotle, Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Shakespeare, George Washington, and even Hitler, who we believed had been reincarnated as our cute little hippie friend, Sandi. We and our friends--every one of them, of course, a fellow Illuminatus--were responsible for every major achievement in human culture, and now, in this life, for the future development of all human affairs.
We continued, excitedly elaborating upon our revelations, the details of which, except for the above, I have now forgotten; but I am quite sure that if anyone had heard this dialogue, we would have been hauled away in straight jackets.
The Psychedelic Experience suggests that the psychedelic "voyager" have with him a "guide" throughout the ordeal, who is himself experienced in tripping; and the appendix contains a number of mandalas meant for easing the voyager's passage through each bardo. The Third Bardo, re-entry mandala reads:
You may now feel the power to perform miraculous feats,
To perceive and communicate with extrasensory power,
To change shape, size and number,
To traverse space and time instantly.
These feelings come naturally,
Not through any merit on your part.
Do not desire them.
Do not attempt to exercise them.
Recognize them as signs that you are in the Third Bardo,
In the period of re-entry into the normal world.
I splashed down without a parachute, as it were.
At the tender age of sixteen, I could very well have been psychologically crippled for life. But here I am, six years later. I iron my shirts most mornings. I clean dishes, lunch socially, drive an automobile, am engaged to be married, and have attended a state university--never a state hospital.
Somehow I've escaped the wards, and the greasy hippie sleeping bag. My only "scars of adventures in hyperspace" are minor damage to my visual cortex, resulting in "permatrails" and other fun (a dark room to me is a quantum-theory light show), and a tendency to "space-out" and "groove" on things, which is common among psychedelic veterans. That, and a strange manner. I have acquired a strange manner since then, I know, and it often frightens people, especially children, and animals. They seem to intuit that something is not quite right with this fellow.
Oh, well. I once was Caesar, after all, and I've a world to run.
- written by Darmin T. Snow