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Close Encounter: A Recollective Analysis
LSD
by Steve E.
Citation:   Steve E.. "Close Encounter: A Recollective Analysis: An Experience with LSD (exp92991)". Erowid.org. Apr 19, 2018. erowid.org/exp/92991

 
DOSE:
200 ug oral LSD (blotter / tab)

BODY WEIGHT: 10 st


In Steven Spielberg’s celebrated sci-fi fantasy Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the hero, Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss), is entranced by visitations from another world. After spotting what he believes to be UFOs, Neary embarks on
a journey of discovery, culminating in him being whisked away from the planet by benign aliens. So what, you may ask, has this Hollywood epic to do with the hallucinogenic substance Lysergic Acid Diethylamide? Simply put, if you substitute
the name Leary for Neary, the story arc of Close Encounters closely resembles the life and career of one of the drug’s foremost evangelists, Dr Timothy Leary.

Despite the bookshelves of the time groaning under the weight of stacked copies of Erick von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, a best-selling account of how humans around the globe recorded signs of extraterrestrial landings, anyone more interested in voyages into ‘inner space’ in the early Seventies was spoilt for choice.
anyone more interested in voyages into ‘inner space’ in the early Seventies was spoilt for choice.
Carlos Castaneda, for example, had chronicled his relationship with Mexican shamen in The Teachings of Don Juan. Scientists, such as John C Lilly – author of The Centre of the Cyclone – were also publishing books describing how experimenting with psychedelics enabled them to meet ‘higher beings’. Timothy Leary, too, had a reprinted volume vying for attention – The Politics of Ecstasy. But by then, his reputation, even among the underground press which had once championed his cause, had been laid low.

After being arrested in Afghanistan, then being extradited back to the US, stories began to circulate accusing Leary of supplying information to the FBI in order to reduce his lengthy, accumulated prison sentences. Even if this were true, his moment in the sun had long since passed. But the ever-optimistic Leary had not been idle during the three years he had evaded American justice. During a spell in Switzerland, he recorded an album with German musicians Ash Ra Temple, or Die Komischen Kuriere as they dubbed themselves. Entitled Seven Up, the record was a musical sortie through the seven levels of consciousness Leary believed to constitute the psychedelic state. As some of my peers were avid collectors of German imports, the record was soon added to the play list at teenage parties. And that is how, at the age of 15, on hearing the taped monologues spoken over the synthesizers and guitars, I found myself unwittingly being psychologically ‘reprogrammed’ by the indefatigable Dr Timothy Leary.

Not that I realised it at the time. I never particularly enjoyed the man’s books, nor when I witnessed Leary once in the flesh, when he gave what he called his ‘stand-up philosophy’ to a room full of Californians. But his name and career was so synonymous with LSD, not to mention the whole freak scene, that anyone entertaining the thought of taking acid during that era had to take note of what Leary was saying, or in the case of Seven Up, listening to his discombobulated voice.

We’d taken a tab each, almost certainly some of the millions produced by Richard Kemp in his laboratory in Wales before it was raided in Operation Julie. As such, the LSD was pure and with a classic dosage of around 200 micrograms. Although most of us had been using the drug for a year or so, no-one in the group had yet had a ‘bad trip’, so the evening began with a light-hearted attempt to bring one on, with each of us standing in front of a mirror while projecting a torch under our faces to produce strange, illuminated shapes. After failing miserably, we carried on with our usual fun and games. At some point, Seven Up was put on the record player, no doubt one of many LPs played during the night. I don’t remember it being significantly different to the others or having any kind of unusual effect.

Later, however, as I stepped off a train at my local station, it helped bring about the only true hallucination I ever experienced in hundreds of psychedelic sessions, and perhaps something far more profound. At one point on the album, Leary solemnly pronounces the phrases ‘spiral’ and ‘coil’. Suddenly, as I walked down the platform to pay my fare, I heard these sounds trundling down the train track towards me – not just in an auditory sense, but visually and emotionally, too, until the spirit
of both words seemed to pass through my entire cellular structure as they continued their weird, elongated journey along a suburban railway line. Within minutes I’d returned home, opened the door and saw my brother walking up the stairs.
He took one look at my ashen face and asked, ‘What the fuck happened to you?’

Actually, I didn’t think much of it at the time, shrugging off the shock as just ‘one of those things’. But the memory remained vivid until one night, four years later, when I saw an exact visual representation of ‘spiral’ and ‘coil’ played out on a movie screen – the tumbling, rolling, cartwheeling UFOs that buzzed over the head of Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Was it just a coincidence? Almost certainly, yet a lingering sense of wonder has persisted over the years.

I gave up using acid decades ago, having neither the time nor the inclination to indulge in psychedelic pursuits. But I’ve never lost interest in the subject and continue to read accounts, both new and old, of these unusual states.
I gave up using acid decades ago, having neither the time nor the inclination to indulge in psychedelic pursuits. But I’ve never lost interest in the subject and continue to read accounts, both new and old, of these unusual states.
Recently, I tracked down a proof of The Varieties of Psychedelic Experience, written by Jean Masters and Robert Houston, and published just as LSD was made illegal in 1966.

In the book, the couple contend that there are four, rather than Leary’s seven (who, let’s face it, never did anything by halves), distinct phases to a guided, acid-fuelled excursion into the human psyche. Firstly, the sensory, that is the visually intoxicating melange of sights, sounds, colours and distortions of reality – the tangerine trees and marmalade skies of popular imagination. Secondly, the recollective-analytic, where more hardy voyagers might descend to confront their fears or phobias. Deeper still lies the symbolic, the level at which issues uncovered in the recollected phase can be addressed by way of eidetic confrontations (images seen with your mind’s eye, as it were) based on myths, legends, historical events or fictional characters. And once these battles have been won, a select few may pass on to final level, the integral, a cosmic arena set aside for going mano-a-mano with the deity of your choice.

Of course, being kids, we barely scratched the surface. The sensory was our playground and there did we gaily romp. Occasionally, in my twenties, I stumbled into the analytic, as by then I actually had a past to reflect upon. But the symbolic remained a mystery. Masters and Houston examine these phases quite extensively, including describing the tools used by researchers to push their subjects deeper and deeper into the experience, one of which was taped monologues. The actual recording Masters and Houston mention is by Gerald Heard, a close friend and colleague of Aldous Huxley, the well-known author of Brave New World. Together, Heard and Huxley began exploring the potential benefits of psychedelics in the early Fifties.

In 1960, Huxley received a letter from a psychologist working at Harvard University inviting him to join in with sessions being conducted on campus. The psychologist was Timothy Leary, who went on to develop his own sound recordings, described
in Storming Heaven, Jay Stevens’ history of the use of LSD in America, as tapes containing ‘whispered instructions’. Masters and Houston also chronicle the subject matter most associated with the symbolic level, ranging from ‘personal totemic animals’ to ‘geometric configurations’ including – wouldn’t you know it – spirals.

Incredible though it may seem, it would appear that the good doctor had managed to deliver a coded message into my brain, sending me deeper into the psychedelic experience as well as scaring me out of my skin. According to Wikipedia, the spiral ‘plays a specific role in symbolism and appears in megalithic art. Spirals are also a symbol of hypnosis and found in structures as small as DNA’s double-helix to the spiral structure of galaxies.’ Meanwhile, a coil is a ‘structural motif found in many proteins.’ In essence, these two symbols can be seen as visual representations of everything from the cellular to the cosmic – infinite and universal.

Unfortunately, Uncle Tim neglected to tell me what to do with the information. Unlike the seeded vision Neary receives in Close Encounters, Leary’s imprint was not specific to a point in time and space. In contrast to Devils Tower – the monolithic national monument in Wyoming that features at the climax of the film – spirals and coils appear ephemeral, delicate creations with neither a beginning nor an end. I suspect, however, that this story has not yet run its course. In the meantime, let’s remember Roy Neary’s reaction on being implanted with symbolic images by extraordinary means. Struggling to visually represent what he feels in his head, Neary messes with shaving foam on his palm, then masses mounds of mashed potato on his plate. Aware of his family’s incredulous reaction to this increasingly erratic behaviour, Neary attempts an explanation. ‘This means something,’ he whispers. ‘This is important.’

Exp Year: 1973ExpID: 92991
Gender: Male 
Age at time of experience: 15 
Published: Apr 19, 2018Views: 639
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LSD (2) : Small Group (2-9) (17), Retrospective / Summary (11)

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