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Review for Multidisciplinary Association For Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), San Jose, CA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

MAPS is on the frontlines, is perhaps unique in it's work to legitimize and medicalize psychedelics, sine qua non I feel our world is damned to extinction. The most spiritual experiences I have ever known were states of consciousness engendered by psychedelics, and one experience in particular extraordinary. It happened when I was 18, and my friend Mitch brought me over two hits, tiny barrels of microdot, that he called White Lightning. I ate them and he had to leave to run a couple of errands. He came back an hour and a half later or so. I wasn’t really feeling anything, and beginning to think I was in for a disappointment. We took a ride in his car and still nothing except I did notice the street lights reflecting surreally off the hood of his car. We visited a friend of his who worked at a pizzeria after which Mitch brought me home. Mitch subsequently offed himself in a PCP haze because he was never educated to the differences between LSD, a psychedelic, and PCP an elephant tranquilizer, which itself the authorities have manipulated with the name of “Angel Dust,” confusing it with the genuine article, MDA, and marijuana.
He left and I was disappointed but still wanted to get high. After a lot of begging I prevailed upon my brother to smoke some marijuana with me. We ducked into the bathroom with its exhaust fan and smoked a bowl, and when we finished he went downstairs to fix something to eat. I started washing my pimple-painted face. All of a sudden I became very high. The pot had seemingly catalyzed the acid. The whole bathroom started vibrating with a scintillating energy. The water gushing out of the faucet became a glorious wonder to behold and was rushing backwards into the faucet as much as out of it. I wasn’t to experience the same kind of beauty until I visited Niagara Falls some years later. The electrical outlet above the sink directly in front of me became a totally different entity, as if a television on which a drama of the greatest interest was playing itself out. I seemed to be able to see each molecule that composed it moving in its appointed path according to Universal Law, which also I witnessed in all its glory and self-evidentness for the first time. As if a test of my conscience and an inventory of my sincerity as a seeker, Great Spirit I think jammed questions into my head: “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going to? How did I get here? What is my purpose in life?” Everything was all wonder at this point; it wasn’t to be terrifying until later. All at once, the answers came in a flash: Oneness with the Universe. I had a feeling of being, seeing, and flowing with the One truth that I call Great Spirit. It was a moment of pure light, bliss, and wisdom. I was as One, and in perfect harmony with Universal Mind. This was the reality. My regular everyday life and state of consciousness was the illusion. I was still able to see myself and my tiny little ego that existed as against something else – the environment, other people, God - but I also could see with Great Spirit’s eyes, what itself was striving to realize itself, and which is the ground and foundation of all being; and which is consciousness. I could see myself as a unique and divine being identical but distinct from the universal essence, the macrocosm, of which I was a microcosm. As fast as I had asked these questions had the answers come, which it seemed like the Universe had only been waiting eternally to be asked to reveal the bliss and beauty of this world. But even the answers weren’t answers to those questions, but only the portal I should go through to experience what I did. I saw the Universe in the proverbial grain of sand and that eternity exists only in the moment. It was necessary as I looked down upon myself from on high that I should still have my body, my being, my ego to participate in the cosmic party, while at the same time all that was an illusion next to the reality of universal being, the dull yellow, all expansive penetrating light of being itself. All of the reality below me, Maya as the Hindus call it, was as an illusion next to the pure light, a kind of light the color of sunshine which was the true essence of being. Enough. There are no words really to express what I had experienced, because even words are only shadows of the reality they represent, and with them there are already division: speaker and spoken to, and all of the many dualities words summon, which don’t exist next to the Cosmic Whole.
I couldn’t believe the wonder and the beauty of what I had just seen. I wanted to tell somebody, anybody, everybody this special thing, the reality and meaning of life.
I went flying out of the bathroom and called urgently to my brother that I wanted to tell him something. Again and again I had to shout for him. He finally acquiesced to my plaints and came upstairs. I looked at him and realized in that moment that there were no words I could use to explain. It was something that existed whole and unfathomable and complete unto Itself and in which there were no divisions between talker and talked to, subject and object or any other. My brother’s face lit up into a hundred million different prisms of light; and his head became bathed in the headdress of an Indian chief.
I stood staring at him in wonder and terror. The colors were incredible and my brother’s visage and aura changed now from one with an Indian headdress of feathers of a thousand million colors to the face of a clown with like coloring.
He must have thought me insane for just staring at him like that, and I was. Although no more insane than the world I had just left forever. For I would never be the same.
It was difficult for me to understand what was happening to me. I would later read Nietzsche describe it as the phenomenon that nothing exists apart from the whole. I don’t guess I consciously dropped my jaw on the ground at all the lies I had been told about LSD just then. When I came out of the trance, the voice said to me, “This is the truth, and don’t you ever forget it. I’ve had to show it to you this way because, for One, of the recklessness of nuclear weapons.” I mean I was on to it this far: in that once I had been initiated into the holy ganja, which had been demonized to me as just slightly worse than the CIA, I had to be suspect about what I had been told about other so-called drugs. I mean I had enough common sense to know that coffee and cigarettes – now there’s a gateway drug, as if it isn’t bad enough all by itself – and alcohol were drugs. Fer crissakes the first time I got drunk, on Mad Dog 20/20, my vision was anything but. And I puked all over the tent baked beans, although I didn’t remember eating them, and my head was spinning as if communicating with a UFO. As adolescents we practiced the same games our elders did. My brother sighed, turned on his heel, and went downstairs to do something; eat I guess. My consciousness struggled between going back to that One, and certain oblivion; or returning to the runt of the life of my ego. Luckily I found, subsequent to this, warriors such as Three Dog Night’s shambala, and Don Quixote, because there was definitely something militaristic about this. My red phone went forth to do battle with the blue carpet, about as inane an image as Alice eating mushrooms. I kept the TV on to try to return me to some sense of normalcy. I’ll never forget that the television show, Jeremiah Jones: Nature’s Protector was on. My mom came home from work at 4 a.m. and shut the TV off. I’ll never forget that either. I was so terrified she would know I was awake. I wonder if she sensed that something momentous had happened to me that night. The point is, it is unconscionable the lies that I was told about marijuana, fer crissakes, and these other substances. One should be prepared for that experience, and it is sine qua non an alternative to the nightmare of capitalist dysfunction. I once wrote in a review of Under the Influence: Disinformation Guide to Drugs about this issue, “Rather than an institutional and cultural framework of support for such a breathtaking discovery, there was the most mendacious dissembling around the issue of (some) drugs.” And I still believe that with respect to psychedelics, “True religious freedom...would be an exploring and attempt at recreating these kinds of states of consciousness; understanding the potentialities and limitations of integrating them into everyday life; freedom to create some kind of cultural and institutional framework to give them legitimacy as religious ritual,” rather than be forced to stumble into it. Indeed, Mitch had to see for himself what the realities of PCP (phencyclidine), an animal tranquilizer, were. His suicide was successful, and a way-station along the path was swinging a four-foot long piece of tree lumber against another tree, in a PCP haze, in the dead of a suburban Chicago winter. This wasn't a case of drugs being evil. This was a problem of prohibition and dishonesty.

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