Saturday, October 25, 2014

Correspondence with the Theologian: N,N-Dimethyltryptamine

Alex Grey, Oversoul

It was very good seeing you, and I was glad to walk and talk with you a while. One of the reasons it's taken so long to get back to you is that I wanted to describe my "religious/mystical/something" experience, but I haven't been sure how to begin—not the least because it might as well be titled "Patrick and the Schedule I Drugs He's Admitting to Having Done," and because I'm not sure as to the credibility of a chemically-induced mystical experience where the convinced faithful are concerned. 

Well—during prior psychedelic experiences (LSD, psilocybin) I'd often be struck by a notion that Spinoza must have elaborated on at some length (I wouldn't really know; Spinoza is still on my to-read list): that everything must be of a singular origin and in fact of a single fundamental substance. The times it seemed most arrestingly clear were those occasions I ingested the drugs on a fairly clear night and had an opportunity to sit quietly and look up at the arabesques of clouds and stars and feel alternately staggered by the facts of absolute unity in all things and of their unfathomable multiplicity.

Everything is one, everything out of one. This line of thought probably comes off sounding like a tautology, a vapid philosophical point, or an "ain't that neat" bullet in a chemistry or physics class in most cases. But during these experiences it affected me on heart-and-stomach level. It was as though I'd stumbled into possession of some transcendent truth, but we could probably attribute this to the basic characteristics of the psychedelic experience. It's common to feel as though the blinders have been taken off and everything has become clear and all makes perfect sense, the inexplicable, the ineffable—although you stammer to articulate what you suddenly seem to understand so well, and the bits of it you're able to write down usually read like gibberish the next day.

One is inconceivably much; much is inconceivably one.

With DMT things went a little bit further than that.
My friend [name], who has been my guide into the world of chemically expanded consciousness, explained DMT as "the businessman's trip." Whereas the effects LSD or psilocybin last for six to twelve hours of sequentially rising, plateauing, and falling degrees of intensity, DMT is five minutes or so of pure psychic crescendo—followed by everything snapping pretty much back to normal. (I've elsewhere heard it called "the spirit molecule." Hippes and new-age types have given lectures: "Is God Trying to Communicate with Us Through DMT?")

I exhaled the smoke and BOOM. I shut my eyes and watched the variegated mandalas revolving behind my eyes, completely insensible to my physical surroundings and unable to move or speak. For some moments I revisited the now-familiar contemplations of the all-in-one, one-in-all paradox, but this time—this time it became a dialogue.

I can't describe how it began. Maybe I can venture that the patterns and forms I lost myself in were the same I was accustomed to seeing in the sky and stars under similar circumstances, and they'd come to represent the cosmos itself. And they seemed to be communicating with me through my own thoughts.

What was it? I wish I'd had the sense to write a few things down while it was still fresh in my mind. There were intimations of a presence beyond myself. I can't remember the exact words of the exchange—
because it was a verbal exchange, and I don't want to attempt to repeat or paraphrase it for risk of getting any little part of it wrong. We could just say it was a hallucination and that I must have been talking to myself in my own mind. But I was convinced at the time (and I'm not wholly unconvinced now) that the other "I" in the conversation wasn't really myself, but the Over-Soul (as Emerson calls it) deliberately plucking at the strings of my mind. My beliefs regarding the divine remain what they are, but I can neither deny nor disavow what I experienced. I can't say that it doesn't count.

I can only sum up the most basic parts of the overall message. I existed as nothing but a part of everything, and that any boundaries between myself and the whole were born from my own imagination. Everything is one, and everything is as it should be; no matter what happens, however I live, however I die, it's all going to be okay, and there is nothing to fear.

At some point [name] prodded my shoulder and asked how I was doing. And just like that, it was over.

You asked what it means to me now, what influence it exerts on my everyday life. Well...I wish I could affirm something useful coming from it, or from any of these experiences. They're not always at the forefront of things for me, and I think things would be much improved if they were. I let so many things get me down and I have the tendency to let them pin me to places where I can't be much good to myself or anyone else.

Another friend of mine is of the opinion that more widespread use of psychedelic drugs would be a boon to society because nobody ever comes out of the experience with a reinforced ego. I'm not sure that's true in every case—I've known some very solipsistic hippies and party kids, certainly—but in his case and mine, our experiences have given us a profound awareness (perhaps less profound and pressing after the conclusion of the experiences) that nothing exists but in relationship.

I guess it would be easy enough to read "it's all right, nothing really matters, it's all going to work out" in what I heard/thought/received, but I'd like to think what I could take from it is that I have nothing to fear, or no reason to be ashamed of who I am.

I'm not going to change the world. Right, right I'm a millennial—and there's some kernel of truth to the rumor that all of us grew up banking on becoming superheroes and superstars. I'm not in any danger of ever winning the Nobel; I'm not going to be a Charles Dickens, an Alan Moore, or a Herman Melville. But my lifetime amounts to a lifetime, just the same. My bubbling up into the world came about the way anyone else's does, and this form that I am will become something other,
like any transient pattern in the general flux of things.

It doesn't change my desire to make a contribution. But I've wondered before then, and perhaps more since, if it isn't worth thinking more rigorously about what I'm capable of doing, given who I am and what position I'm in, and who I can be useful to.

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