To sink in Hell or soar angelic,
You’ll need a pinch of Psychedelic.-Humphrey Osmond
Journal entry for Monday September 3, 2001 Full Moon in Leo.
It was a warm moonlit Saturday night in the midst of a secluded private grove somewhere in the sticks of Northwestern Illinois and shit was running down my thigh. The immediacy of the moment was exacerbated by the fact that the sudden and uncontrollable gush of projectile vomit that coaxed the watery brown mishap down my leg completely saturated the roll of toilet paper I carried with me into the bushes. I was rapidly becoming unhinged. My body was in total upheaval and my mind, limbs, and senses were almost useless. My longish hair became a cold, slimy, living ogre clutching my head and neck. A sultry female voice in my head sternly commanded me to not touch or run my hands through it. “Don’t touch your hair! Don’t touch your hair!” she bellowed. A thought occurred to me that I dare not disturb its ghastly clamminess or there would be more unspeakable hell to pay. Who’s thought it was and who was doing the thinking, I was no longer certain. Add to all this the ethereal night vision that the ayahuasca admixture induced and I was convinced I was dying. As if the physical events weren’t distressing enough, the strange sounds emanating from my fellow ayahuasceros added to my terror. To my distant right, Jake, an old man in a wheel chair was cackling and mumbling, more like speaking in tongues, and gesticulating his deformed arms in a most frightful and eldritch fashion as he journeyed with The Little Grandma. The sight and sound of this was too much to deal with by itself let alone having to deal with my own body’s tormented sluicing. In the distance, the shimmering phantasms cast by the bonfire, the echoes of other people coping with their own purging journey on ‘The Good Medicine’, and the eerie and ancient ayahuasca songs being chanted at the fire by the seer, filled and backlit the night and were utterly disconcerting. I was becoming paralyzed with high anxiety.
As if being pitied or humored by the entheogenic spirit resident in ‘The Vine of the Soul’, I was suddenly flooded with a momentary sobriety and lightness of being. I discovered later that this is typical of an ayawaskha journey. One experiences extremes of peaks and valleys – agony and ecstasy – as one learns in a highly dramatic and compressed fashion the frightening realness of being truly human. During this momentary reprieve from the unbridled ego-centered angst of an ontological meltdown, I managed to ditch my soiled cut-offs and briefs, wipe myself with my tee shirt, and find my truck where I quickly renewed with water, Dr. Bronner’s soap, and fresh clothing.
Though I was still heavily disoriented by the rapid come-on of Grande Mamita Ayahuasca, I managed to zero in on the distant bonfire to steer myself back to my sleeping bag. I could smell faint wisps of vomit and feces around me and hoped I was down wind from and not stepping in some other’s cleansing hardship. As I drew nearer to the bonfire, I could see another of the older gentlemen in our party who had stripped down to his bikinis and was wildly gyrating around the fire in an unbelievable and highly nongeriatric manner. I watched in bewilderment as the muscles of his legs and upper torso undulated in a coordinated, wave-like, rhythmic fashion from chest to groin to ankles much like the flagella on a bacterium. Again the seductive female voice, which I would hear in my head and would accompany me on my journey, spoke up saying, “Don’t watch Luther dance! It is his journey and it is very personal, very intimate. I am giving him a lesson that is only for him. Go to your bag, let go and come to me for I await and love you!”
Stumbling toward my bag I chanced to look at the sky. The heavens were awesome here away from the ambient light of the city and I easily became lost in a reverie about the stars. I thought about the fact that whenever I ‘looked up’ at the night sky, I felt a deep longing as though I was looking homeward. The female voice spoke up here. “Silly monkey! One doesn’t ‘look up’ from a planet – there is no ‘up’. One ‘looks out’…and then a miracle occurs. A monkey witnesses itself, the past, present, and future as eternity.” I asked out loud, “Who said that? Did you speak or did I think that?” She laughingly replied, “Ahhh my dear little monkey, that is a great mystery!” At this point I began to feel a tremendous pressure in my chest and my knees began to buckle and lose strength. I couldn’t breath. The panic returned with such force that I barely made it to my bag and fell across it. I had made camp under a beautiful cedar pine and could ‘feel’ the tree support me as I collapsed to the ground. I looked up into the branches of the cedar and the technicolor image of crosses and crucifixes began to rush from behind me into my field of vision and rapidly recede into a vortex in the distance before me. What had been cedar branches was now a rushing hot-colored whirling blur of every imaginable type of spiritual, religious, and non-religious cruciform. At one point a large shimmering blazing white svastika superimposed itself over the whole phantasmagoria and began a slow counterclockwise rotation. All the crosses aligned with and danced to its motion. The Sanskrit symbol for OM was at the nexus of its arms and a peaceful clear light radiated from it. My body was shaking uncontrollably and I believed I was having some type of seizure. I was out of my mind with fear when the voice, becoming sweet and sexy, said, “Don’t fight me. You don’t have to be afraid. Let go, let go, let go and come to me for I love you.” At that moment I was willing to do anything for the slightest relief so I said, “I’m letting go. I’m coming…I’m coming to you.”*
This is where things really got interesting because at that moment of surrender the ground and my surroundings fell away and I became a bolt of lightning traveling at tremendous speed. This new and profound experience, though still terrifying, was so novel and ecstatic that soon my fear also fell away - and I journeyed… Her voice purred into my ear, “No one has ever come to me who didn’t nearly die of fright or suffer. Like any woman, I test my lovers. I desire only the strong, trustworthy, and courageous-hearted. I gave you a taste of death and rightfully you puked and shit all over yourself, but you needed to be cleansed of much bitter energy.” I thought, “Bitter, yes, I’m bitter about something.” I was thinking of a break up I had just undergone that left me angry, distrustful, and bitter. She said, “No, bitter like food,” and giggled like an infatuated teenage girl. I then experienced an exasperating stretch of time where my body continuously looped through a pattern of contorting, grimacing, then violently trembling, becoming rigid, and then relaxing. It seemed to go on for hours. Finally, like a falling leaf, I came to rest in a jungle setting. It was dark but sunlight was shining through the thick forest canopy. I saw a colorful bird of some sort hopping from branch to branch pursuing a greenish-brown tree snake and a small monkey swinging on a thick vine. I followed the vine through the trees trying to find its source. I could feel every bone, muscle, and sinewy fiber in my body and it all ached from physical exertion. I felt emptied out. The sultry voice said, “I have brought you to my home. I am the vine that has allowed a little monkey to travel. The body has been cleansed and needs to rest and be restored. You have come to me and I love you. Now I come into you.” A small tinge of nausea, a release at the base of my throat, and a dull pressure in the middle of my forehead all passed as quickly as arising. “Your chakras are opening,” I thought. “You know more about these things than you allow yourself credit for,” said the voice. “Sometimes being humble can be self-limiting,” she warned. Then soothing warmth began to radiate outward from the area between my navel and groin. It flooded my entire body. I felt elated and in love with everything. At that moment I felt with absolute certainty the Intelligence, Force, and Substance of Ceaseless Creation moving through me and the earth and the cedar and all things. My body-mind learned the memory and imprint of how to feel God and I knew that “God is not a noun. God is a verb.”[url=#_ftn3] [/url]
I journeyed on this concept for an eternity through vast and ancient buttressed halls of strange and magnificent architecture. I gaped in disbelief at gigantic bizarre mechanical devices performing incomprehensible tasks. I flowed with the movement of colorfully complex phosphene activity patterns morphing into and out of each other accompanied by the pulsing drone of a weird atonal chorus of angelic voices, and finally found myself in the presence of robotic elf-like entities speaking to me in a language that sounded like excited and intelligent gulping, clicking, and screeching. This segment of the journey was humbling and totally alien to any experience I’ve ever had and I had no box in which to categorize it. Other out-of-ordinary sounds, visions, and feelings occurred during this extensive time frame but I cannot seem to recapitulate the corresponding events much less find the words to make sense of it.
Suddenly I realized I was staring at the branches of the cedar. Somehow I had gotten myself into my sleeping bag though I didn’t recall doing it. I had balled up the extra sweatshirt I was going to use as a pillow, and was clutching it against my lower abdomen. I didn’t recall doing that either. It was still dark, but things had quieted down around me. The air had become much cooler and my breath was frosty. It was wonderfully exhilarating. I felt light and my body no longer ached and I really had to pee. I suddenly realized I also had a tremendously strapping hard-on that I felt down to my toes. “After all that, you’re obviously still in good shape,” I laughed to myself. I got up and went to the bushes. I had no difficulty urinating with my erection though under normal circumstances it would have been somewhat difficult and painful, as any man will attest to. In fact, it was the most intensely pleasurable piss I ever took. I lingered over these feeling as I got back in my bag…and I drifted off into a dream-like state that was not sleep yet was not waking. The voice drifted through my head saying, “I am going to show you what to look for in a woman and how she should make love to you. From now on, settle for no less.” Then a faceless dark-haired lean female form settled on top of me and began a slow and thorough exercise in kissing me from head to toe. She especially concentrated on the area of my neck. She kept moving her pubis in a massage-like motion and I could feel her warm moistness and pubic hair caressing my belly. She smelled like sex and elicited soft moans and sighs as though she was totally enjoying herself. This all may seem very erotic but was more educational and lesson-like than sexual. She said I needed to learn how to pick a partner who was gifted, free, and giving during love-play and was in love with making love. When she finished she promised, “I am going to send someone to you.” I don’t recall anything after this. I assumed I fell asleep. The next thing I was certain of was hearing a rooster crowing in the distance.
As I awoke, my sense of time was scrambled and I could not reckon how many hours had passed since the seer offered me the small Dixie cup half-filled with the thick bitter brew. It seemed like it happened in another lifetime. It was still dark and I could see shadows cast by the fire dancing in the cedar branches. I sat up and looked back at the dying embers. The shaman was there heaping on more wood. He was alone wrapped in an Alpaca serape and was smoking a cubanero. I heard him mysteriously whisper to no one, “Cómo es inusual…” (How unusual…) though I had no frame of reference for his comment. I slid back into my bag feeling peaceful and contented and just a bit wary that I might unwillingly saddle up and take off again at breakneck speed to goddess-knows-where. It was then that I noticed the black outline of the shaman’s giant Mastiff hound sitting sphinx-like at my feet. The reflection of the fire dancing in his eyes caught my attention. His gaze was fixed and calm and seemed to look through me. He didn’t acknowledge my seeing him. The female voice said he was there for me but the reason, like the wonders I had experienced, was beyond my or any monkey’s comprehension. He stayed at my feet until daybreak.
The last thing I remember the voice saying was that I now belonged to a great sister and brotherhood that was not limited to our tiny planet and that she was known the universe over by many different names. She then told me to call her by a special name and it was to be our secret. She promised the name would grow into a great power within me as long as I never told it to anyone. Whispering softly, she said I was welcomed to come back to her, that I would know when, and that she was already missing me…
I must have fallen asleep again and was awakened by the rising sun and the rustle of the dog leaving its post. My body felt refreshed but my head was spacey indeed. I searched through my carrying bag for my watch. It was almost 6 am. Eight hours had passed since I drank the ayahuasca potion. Other people were up and warming at the fire. I could see Jake sitting at the fire without his wheel chair. He waved his crooked arm in greeting as I walked over. I smiled back but was smiling because I remembered how frightful he had looked to me when Little Grandma Ayahuasca had taken my hand in hers. I joined the party wondering if I looked as bedraggled as most of them. The shaman had a large pot of coca leaf tea simmering on the coals and bid us to liberally help ourselves. Two cups later my head felt clearer and I felt renewed.
We closed our ceremony the way we began – by sitting in a circle and passing a Cuban cigar while relating our adventures. Some talked, some just smoked and stared and handed the cubanero to the person on their left. When I was passed the tobacco, the only words that came to mind were “…terrifying ecstasy…” After the talking circle, we broke our fast with hot coffee, cold apple cider, fresh fruit, and spicy homemade zucchini bread. After breakfast we cleaned the grove and wished each other well. We all remarked about the sense of closeness we felt for each other and that this remarkable individual experience we all had also had a shared group component that ran deeply in all of us. We would never forget each other and our evening together.
I had a hundred or so miles to drive before I could permit myself to collapse. I got home around noon Sunday and slept until this morning.
[url=#_ftnref1][/url]Renowned MD and psychiatrist, Humphrey Osmond, is credited with coining the term ‘psychedelic’ in association with phanerothymic medicines and the profound internal experiences they induce. A 1956 correspondence to Dr. Osmond finds test subject/psychonaut/author Aldous Huxley quipping:
To make this mundane world sublime,
Take half-a-gramme Phanerothyme. (In this case, synthemesc – Ed.)In his reply letter, Dr. Osmond waxes poetic:
To sink in Hell or soar angelic,
You’ll need a pinch of Psychedelic.[url=#_ftnref2][/url]Whether I actually spoke out loud during the journey is a matter of speculation for me. During the experience I lost all sense of ego-self but have amazing recall of most of the ‘lesson’. What good is a lesson if it were forgotten?
[url=#_ftnref3] [/url]R. Buckminster Fuller said this. I wished I had remembered Professor Fuller’s other great quote during the intense onset of my journey, “Don’t fight forces, use them.”