Citation: Mahan Atma. "Heaven and Hell Plus-4: An Experience with LSD (exp6591)". Erowid.org. Mar 1, 2002. erowid.org/exp/6591
As a young adolescent in the 1980s, I frequently experimented with all sorts of substances: Primarily marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, psilocybin and LSD. Most of my use was recreational in nature, but I also had a bit of the mystic in me. I was deeply intrigued by the writings of Carlos Castaneda, for whom certain hallucinogens were considered consciousness-expanding, a route to an alternative reality, or a higher plane of being, so to speak. I also read Herman Hesse and William Burroughs, for whom altered states of consciousness were also a frequent topic.
In 1983, when I was 14 years old, I consumed a massive dosage of LSD while alone in my bedroom one night. Unfortunately I had no idea of the strength of the dosage ahead of time, but with my subsequent experience I would estimate the dose at 800 micrograms or more. But I had no way of knowing this at the time, nor did I have ANY idea what was in store for me . I believed that I was just going to partake in another light, fun, amusement-park sort of trip as I had experienced with much weaker doses.
It started out typically enough. If you've ever done a decent amount of LSD, you know how it goes. I sit around for an hour waiting for it to kick in, and then at some point I start to notice something different. My field of vision suddenly becomes very 'wavy'. Everything starts undulating in the strangest way. Walls and ceilings appear to be alive, as they waver, fluctuate, and so on, almost as if they are breathing. Moving objects leave 'trails' in the air. And yet, during the entire experience, my mind is relatively clear and normal. It isn't at all like being drunk, where I can literally feel my mind getting numb and my thoughts getting sloppy. Instead, my thoughts are as clear as a bell.
Then serious close-eye visions started. This is hard to imagine until you've actually seen it. Imagine the most gorgeous stain glass window you have ever seen, and then multiply it by a million, both in terms of complexity and artistic intensity. There is no way to convey this experience with words: You literally see colors and geometric patterns you have never seen before. It is absolutely mind-blowing! It is staggering when it happened, because I simply had no idea this kind of stuff can come out of the brain simply because of the ingestion of an extremely small quantity of some chemical.
I was also listening to music at the time, and the most amazing thing happened: the music and my visual hallucinations began to meld into one single stimulus! It is impossible to describe accurately with words, but I was literally seeing the sound! It was as if the sound itself was alive and had inhabited my visual patterns, such that it had a life of its own. Think of the most complicated music you can (Mozart, Schoenberg, Phillip Glass and so on) and try to imagine what it would look like if it were expressed visually as a series of patterns and colors flowing through time. My visions took on the quality of a train moving through space and time, constantly shifting and evolving in complexity.
What happened next is even more difficult to express with words, and I am forced to use a vague set of metaphors and adjectives which can do no justice. First, my inner field of vision became boundless. Think about how you normally see the outside world. Your eyes are almost like a camera; you see whatever is front of you, in whatever direction your eyes are pointed, and moreover you tend to focus on a single point in your field of vision. Your field of vision, while not completely two-dimensional, tends to look as such, like a movie-screen, but more complicated and detailed.
Our inner, imagined visions tend to reflect this outside field of vision; but there is no reason for this, the your inner eye has no boundaries. Try to imagine what it would be like if you could see not only in front of you, but also behind you, above you and below, all at the same time. And imagine that your vision was no longer focused on a single point, but rather, that you are 'taking in the view' from all angles at once. It was as if I had become a eyeball which sees in all directions, without focusing in any one direction at all. This was my experience.
Moreover, what I 'saw' was not the physical world around me, but rather the most beautiful light and color I could ever possible imagine in my wildest dreams, multiplied a million times over! However, to describe it as 'light and color' is entirely inadequate, because I was literally seeing colors I had never experienced before, and what I saw was intertwined with everything I heard, felt, and thought.
At this point, time and space became a meaningless concept. It was not as if time had stopped or frozen, because things were still changing dynamically, or 'moving along' in some sense, and yet I did not have a feeling of time passing by. It was as if my world were both alive and yet all at once altogether timeless. Somehow it just 'existed' and 'lived', but without a clock ticking along.
The other significant change was that the voice in my head stopped. Think about the way you go through life with that inner voice in your head. It is a constant, never-ending narrative that I speak to myself in my waking mind. If you've ever tried to silence that voice, you know how difficult that is. You try to make that voice stop talking, but inevitably, at some other level you begin talking to yourself about how your own mind is trying to stop the voice, and so on - it is very difficult to do this unless you have a lot of practice with meditation. (The only other time it happens is in sleep.)
It was then that I began to become aware of the presence of God. This is by far the most difficult part to convey in words, but I will once again try to do so by using metaphors, simply to convey a psychic impression of this experience.
Imagine that you are an adolescent who has lived alone in a completely enclosed room for your entire life. That is, try to imagine that you have lived all of your life alone in this one room, without every knowing that anybody else or any other world even exists. Then, imagine that all of a sudden that room opens up, and you are suddenly surrounded by thousands of other people just like yourself who have been watching you your entire life! Try to imagine how that would feel, living your entire life without ever realizing that there was anybody or anything outside of your little room -- and all of a sudden you discover that you are not alone, and that in fact, your little room has been surrounded by other beings like yourself, who have been observing you the entire time! Imagine that they would know everything about you, and think of how exposed you would feel, and yet at the same time, you would feel incredibly joyous, knowing that you are no longer alone! And although those outside people have witnessed your deepest darkest sins, they simply do not care about them! All they want to do is embrace you, and free you from your little room, welcoming you into their glorious, all-knowing and all-loving community!!
It is impossible to actually do so, but simply try to imagine how joyous and loved you would feel to actually meet these people for the first time, and to feel their warm embrace, their touch and their voices, their recognition and acknowledgment of your existence. Moreover, it is not like they are a bunch of strangers that you have never seen before. It is much more like you are meeting up with an ancient clan of lost soul-mates who understand you perfectly, and of whom you have been aware at some deep subconscious level all your life, but about whom you had completely forgotten when you were born!
I must emphasize, however, that although I talk about these presences as a plurality, it was also as if they were a single unity as well. They were many, but they were one. They saw with many eyes, but they thought with one mind. They saw the world from many angles, but they felt the same feelings, and knew the same things, with perfect telepathy and communication beyond words. Again, it is highly paradoxical, and I think it's truly impossible to grasp unless you have witnessed it for yourself.
What I then understood is that our normal, waking human reality is incredibly illusory. While the 'objective reality' is indeed real, our concrete perception of it is simply a highly limited, false reality which has become 'embedded' in our present frame of reference.
In the middle of all this, I became intensely aware of something else. Again, words fail me here, but I felt as if I were on the 'threshold' of Heaven itself. I was aware that I had a choice: If I so desired, I knew that I could 'die' right then and there. I would simply step forward into this Heaven, perhaps never again return to my human reality. However, I somehow knew that I was 'not supposed to enter' Heaven just then. I simply felt very strongly that I had an important purpose within my human existence, for which I was intended to return to the human world. And so I turned back.
(Here I need to point at that I'm having to explain this in narrative form, as if these were experiences passing through time, but again, it somehow it all happened 'at once', and all of this awareness I am describing suddenly became immediately apparent to me, in a timeless sort of way, as described above.)
And that was when I was ushered back not to my human existence, but to Hell itself. I immediately became completely overwhelmed with the sheer weight of timeless eternity, and the staggering vastness of infinity. While my ego had been allowed to dissolve beautifully on the threshold of death, now I began to struggle terribly to reconstruct my ego, to regain a foothold in my normal human existence. Just as my fleeting glimpse of Heaven was filled with undescribable joy, ecstasy and a timeless love, my subsequent experience in Hell was incredibly horrible and terrifying.
Again, here is a metaphor I will use to describe it, however inadequately: Whereas I had previously felt like an adolescent discovering the crowd of soul-mates outside of his enclosed room for the first time, I now felt like I was being locked back into that cell for eternity! Try to imagine the feeling of being that adolescent who, after being shown the loving and warm world of God outside of his little room, is suddenly condemned to locked back in that room like a prisoner in a solitary cell, for all of eternity! I was consumed with loneliness, and I felt that I had previously opened a door which I should not have opened. I felt as if I had committed an unforgivable sin for which I was now condemned forever, as if I had eaten the fruit from the forbidden tree.
Thus I was jolted out of my ecstatic state of mind, and suddenly became very aware of the physical world around me. I had a clock next to my bed, which superficially seemed to be ticking along normally, and yet every second that passed by seemed like a thousand years! Whereas time had previously become meaningless, all of a sudden it seemed to take on the force and momentum of a huge freight train crawling along at a rate of one inch per hour.
And while I could see the physical world around me, I was still being surrounded by visuals, and I desperately wanted to stop them, but I couldn't. Whereas they had previously appeared as unimaginably beautiful, they now seemed haunting and torturous. It was like being stuck in the worst horror movie I could possibly imagine!
If you have ever seen the movie 'Being John Malcovich', in which people are able to enter into the brain of Malcovich and experience his reality as if it were a movie of some sort, that is almost exactly how I felt in my own brain! I could see my own physical reality as if it were a movie in front of my eyes, and yet I was deeply divorced from it. I was aware that it was all an illusion, and yet I felt that it was an illusion from which I would never escape.
And whereas I had previously stopped the voice in my head completely, that voice now multiplied and took over again with a vengeance! I felt like there were several of these insidious voices in my head and I could not control any of them! It was very much like my inner voice was the engine of a car, and I was continually pressing the accelerator to the floor. Just when I thought I had it under some semblance of control, it would take off like a shot, like an uncontrollable madman, as if my brain were possessed.
At the same time, I became intensely aware of my physical body - Not only were my muscles full of cramps and aches, with my jaw aching terribly, but my insides literally felt like they were on fire. I felt as if I had swallowed a gallon of sulfuric acid. The very pit of my stomach and my throat burned as if I had been stuck with a white hot poker. Moreover, I could feel every bowel movement, and the blood coursing through my veins, and it was driving me mad. I repeatedly had to get up to go to the bathroom, and my feces and urine took on a detestable appearance, tinged with a sickening red. I was convinced that I had been thoroughly poisoned.
Moreover, I became dead convinced that I was stuck in this horrible state for eternity. I had more or less forgotten about the fact that I had ingested LSD. I was convinced that I had become Adam, who had eaten the forbidden apple from the tree of knowledge and was now being banished from Heaven for Eternity.
I simply cannot tell you the pain I endured for the next 5-6 hours, which quite literally seemed like eons of time, during which my hallucinations raged out of control and the voices in my head took over like a band of rioting madmen. I felt ineffably alone, cut off from all other life. And the worst part about it was that I was truly convinced that I had become separated from God and Heaven for all of Eternity....
How I ever managed to gain a foothold on reality again (despite, the drug wearing off) I will never know. All I can remember is that I finally fell asleep after what seemed like forever, and when I woke up, I felt vaguely normal again, albeit with a brain full of cobwebs.
After that experience, my life changed dramatically. For a long time, I swore off drugs of all kinds (including caffeine even). I became a strict vegetarian, became highly interested in Buddhism, and actually shaved my head bald like a Buddhist monk for several years. I adopted the most stringent of ascetic regimes, refusing myself the most basic pleasures. I went months without sexual activity of any sort (not even masturbation), and practiced the strictest discipline I could possibly muster.
After a number of years of this I eventually gravitated back to my carnal, human habits, but I never forgot what that experience was like. And to this day, I am still searching for that purpose, that feeling of meaning and destiny which was conferred to me on the threshold of Heaven, that mission for which I know I am destined on this physical earth....
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