Citation: BigChief. "Ego-Death and Profound Insights: An Experience with LSD (exp69386)". Erowid.org. Apr 17, 2008. erowid.org/exp/69386
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This was only my second experience with psychedelics. The first was a mild trip on one hit of acid. My friend K (I will refer to people by initials), who has tripped several times on mushrooms but was as new to LSD as I was, warned me that we hadn’t really been tripping. “You can sense when you’ve crossed that threshold. It feels somehow sharp. You know you’re in it for the long haul.” This really didn’t bother me much. My last experience had been so universally positive that it was hard for me to imagine what a difficult trip would be like. Ignorance is bliss, eh?
I couldn’t have asked for a better day to trip. It was well into autumn and the leaves were all shades of brilliant colors, some on the ground, some still clinging to the trees. The day before had been quite cold, which had me worried I’d have to trip indoors, but on the day I was to trip, it was unusually warm, almost like summer, but with a crisp fall breeze. The sun lit the landscape so intensely that it reminded me of my last trip. My friend T attributes days like this one to the Stoner God, a benevolent deity who blesses hippies and heads with nice days to trip on.
After eating breakfast with the four friends I tripping with, smoking a bowl, and preparing our trip kits, we set off toward the park. About half way there, probably around 11:30, we stopped at a bench to take our hits. I never cease to be amazed that so powerful a drug comes in such an unassuming package, and I mused to myself about this as I held the tiny peace of blotter paper under my tongue. My friend P knew several people who had tripped off of this same sheet and the word was it was excellent acid. P described the feeling you get waiting for acid to kick in as being like preparing to go on stage, and I recalled the nervous excitement and mental preparation from when I did theatre in high school. Everyone was in such high spirits from the weather, though, that I hardly thought about the acid, still in my mouth.
As we entered the park and headed up the trail to Lookout Point, our first destination, I started to notice the colors more deeply. I saw my friends slowing down and looking more intently at the trees and assumed that the sensation had hit them at almost the same time. P smiled and said, “Do things like really bright to you?” I nodded with a grin and he added, “I think I might be tripping.”
As we sat down on the giant rocks of Lookout Point, I suddenly felt a tightness in the back of my neck and a buzzing sensation in my head. I closed my eyes and leaned against the rock trying to calm myself, but my mind was chattering with odd disjointed thoughts and the tension had increased so that I kept trying to yawn. I realized that I felt cold, and I stumbled to my sweatshirt and jacket which I had discarded a few feet away. When I pulled them onto my body, I felt a tingle down my spine, and the fabric was pleasantly warm but oddly harsh on my skin. By the time I made it back to the rocks, my hallucinations had begun set it. With my eyes closed, I saw a magnificent spiraling fractal pattern radiating red and yellow shapes and symbols from a point that I sensed could only be the depths of my subconscious. (Incidentally, at a later date, I told a friend that my spirals always went counterclockwise, and he said his are always clockwise. We speculated that this may have something to do with left and right brain). When I opened my eyes, I saw the textures on the leaves and rocks seemingly smolder – they would ripple and darken, then peel away and send what looked like tracers into the air. Seeing me struggle, P asked, “How are you doing, man?” the last thing I remember saying for some time was, “Everything is melting up.”
At this point, I experienced what I would later learn to call ego-death, but the feeling was alien and unpleasant as I desperately tried to cling to my sense of self while the drug acted to deconstruct it. My mind felt fractured, as if I was existing is several places and times simultaneously. Cause and effect had lost all meaning, so I began to have disjointed memories with no sequential relationship to one another. This led me to believe momentarily that time itself was an illusion, and that each moment in my life was occurring at the same time. Questions like, “Who am I?” and “What is fundamental?” led to radical deconstructions of existence, because everything I thought could be abstracted one step further. I found myself flailing to find a sort of cognitive ground – some fundamental thought upon which I could base my experience. Time, space, personality, and causation had all failed in this, and lacking any reference point, my consciousness was a whirlwind of thoughts without context.
At some point, K looked at me and asked, “How are you?” I looked at him slowly and nodded my head. Words could not express how I was, so it seemed sufficient to give him the affirmative – yes, I exist. How I am is a non-issue, I just am. I also recall an odd moment of clarity in which I stressed to myself, “This is only a drug. Even if it’s difficult, you’ll still come down eventually.” In retrospect, I’m almost proud of myself for having the strength of will to think such a thing in the midst of such a shit storm. After we had been sitting at Lookout Point for some time in various mental conditions, A, who was very familiar with LSD and more adept than the rest of us insisted that we continue hiking and make our way to the lake. P and K agreed, but I looked at T to find that he seemed to be struggling as much as I was, if not more. I tried to protest, but had difficulty speaking clearly. A insisted that moving would help me calm down and the group began moving.
She could not have been more correct, because I soon as I had a goal – something to draw my attention away from the madness in my own head, I began to realize that my surroundings were absolutely gorgeous. The ground was covered in a carpet of golden leaves that made the atmosphere seem to glow with an aura of the same color. The tree branches turned into spiraling tendrils of light that would curl themselves into circles before spinning off into the air, as if propelled by their own inner energy. The bark was bulging and rippling with dark craggy patterns. All of the trees looked like the ancient, massive treed you see in pictures of the primeval forests in Europe, except that the bark was crawling about and rearranging itself.
We stopped again to rest and immediately, I was back in the confusion of my own mind – stronger, but not yet in control. P said, “We need some music, why don’t you play your harmonica. I remembered that I had my harmonica in my pocket and I put it to my lips, hoping I would remember how to play it. I found myself unable to play coherent melodies, but I discovered that it was intensely pleasing and calming to me to simply inhale and exhale through it, producing the two fundamental chords.
On a harmonica, inhaling produces the V chord, and exhaling produces the I chord. V to I is the most basic cadence in all of music, tension and resolution. Some musicologists have theorized that moving from I to V represents leaving home, while the V to I resolution represents the return home. I was not actively conscious of this theory at the time, but I simply knew that this was the case. Exhale/inhale, V/I, tension/release, away/home. The duality implicit in the harmonica was like a revelation. Suddenly I knew the cognitive ground that I could use to understand my shattered reality. Everything exists in two states – dissolution and resolution, away and home.
In all things, there are two states
Dissolution and Resolution
Away and Home
This simple phrase became a mantra for me. At once, the madness of my experience collected itself into archetypal manifestations of this fundamental truth. I began to babble to P about my discoveries – the duality of all things, the cyclical progression from dissolution to resolution and back again, the psychological meaning of “home.” I was obsessed with the notion of home. I insisted that all of life is just finding home in the present moment, discovering the resolution of all tensions, psychologically returning to the first state of oneness, before moving back into chaos and repeating the process. At some point during this time, I had the bizarre sensation that P and I were shooting thoughts back and forth between our minds non-verbally, but these thoughts consisted only of sounds. I really can’t explain this, but that’s what it felt like.
After walking for a long time, we arrived at the lake. The size and brilliance of it completely overwhelmed me. As we wound around the shore line, I admired the plants around me, which had taken on a painterly quality – instead of continuous lines, they looked like bold strokes of color moving independent of one another. Finally, we found a shady spot near the waters edge and sat to eat. At that moment, I felt completely at one with the universe and my companions. I reached the conclusion that all life is really a manifestation of the same universal life-form. Realizing that this life would continue forever without me, I had no fear of death, though I felt fortunate to have been given a portion of this life to do with as I please. As I sat in perfect bliss, marveling at the implications of my insights, I realized that I was home.
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