The latest podcast (the first of 2018) begins an excruciatingly personal examination of my experience of psychedelically-enhanced pseudo-awakening in the years between 2000 and 2003, which reached its crescendo with the making of The God Game, the writing of Matrix Warrior, and my short-lived assumption of the mantle of The One (unceremoniously curtailed by the Matrix sequels in 2003, the lesson being: never attach your enlightenment to a Hollywood franchise).
I joked in a recent post about becoming an unawakened teacher; the serious kernel of that is that I have some things I would like to share about being unawakened and, more specifically, false awakening.
If we can’t know what enlightenment (or anything) is until we experience it for ourselves, it follows that the smart move is to focus our attention on our here-and-now experience of unenlightenment. If enlightenment is about getting (back) to reality (a journey of zero distance), then the more squarely we can face (and own) up to our experience of being unenlightened, the closer we get to . . . enlightenment.
Now that everyone knows the author of this blog is a TV addict who produces thought-provoking books, articles, films, and podcasts in his spare time, it may be the perfect time to relate how it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time, I really thought enlightenment was just a heartbeat away. And here is the second area of expertise I have to share, namely, not merely the lows of unenlightenment but the highs of false enlightenment, archetypal possession, or ego inflation, as demonstrated, I am fairly sure, by certain gurus a la mode under scrutiny at this blog.
As well as the many sorts of experience that (like too much TV) keep us out of our true state, there are those that take us further from it, by tricking us into thinking we are getting closer to it. Or perhaps it is rather that they trick us into missing it when we are getting too close to it? I am not sure which it is, but maybe by re-examining some of these old experiences, I will figure it out. At the very least, I might get closer to knowing why, after all these years of dedication and struggle, after so many glimpses that seemed to indicate ultimate reality winking back at me, I am still here, pondering the mundane mystery of an unawakened life.
The following account begins in 2001 and refers back to my mind-altering DMT experience of October 2000. It was written some time ago, for a never-published ~ and at this point, never-to-be published ~ ode to Vampires, Answer to Lucifer (commenced in 2005). The tone and style is very far from my present voice (I was attempting to channel Edgar Allan Poe for much of the book), but I have kept it mostly intact, seeing as how the medium is the message, and seeing that it is my self I am putting under the microscope here.
Now at last I had seen for myself, via the rocket fuel of DMT, what I had for so long envisioned, imagined, fantasized and hypothesized (and proselytized) about. I had fast-forwarded consciousness through space and time, all the way to Eschaton, and gained an advance preview of coming attractions. I had undergone my very own dress rehearsal for Judgment Day. Now I knew what to “expect,” it was clearer than ever that no amount of prior exposure to such an event could ever prepare me for it. Now I finally had something to testify to, there were no words to describe it. It was painfully, derangingly obvious to me that no one could be told about the things I had seen. They would have to see them for themselves.
The night immediately following my DMT vision, I dreamed of a long series of encounters with different individuals, people from my life and others I had no waking knowledge of. I was taking these people, one at a time, to a gaping hole in space-time, and compelling them to look through it. I was showing them God’s face, the Eschaton, this unimaginable event that I have insisted on naming simply to drag it down onto the page. In the end, it seemed there were thousands of these people I brought to the fiery opening, this raging hole in space-time, as if to mark them for some future time when they, like myself, would have no option but to pass through it, into another realm of creation, a blinding new reality.
Here was a physical and temporal event that existed beyond space and time, at a higher dimension of reality, like some inconceivable fifth or seventh or tenth-dimensional object. If Infinity could be condensed into a single space, if Eternity had a departure point, this was it. Though it was like an explosion of light and heat, as if the Sun itself were rising inside one’s skull, it acted in a similar manner to a black hole, drawing everything that existed in space and time—not merely objects but also events—towards it. Nothing could pass through that Burning Gateway unchanged, or survive the passage at all, unless it was consciousness itself. It was divine fire, and it would turn everything that was not it into itself. Whatever was not already one with that fire would be destroyed, consumed by it. It was not merely the end of the world, of this present cycle of civilization, or even the human race; it was the end of the Universe, of matter, of objective reality itself.
There was nothing about this opening that spoke of endings, however. It was a gateway onto a new order of consciousness, and spoke only of beginnings. Whatever it was, I knew that nothing else mattered except getting back there. In that vision, I saw Judgment Day, a day in which an entire species is processed, purified, and delivered, back to its Maker. This would happen according to a precise timetable and drill, one measured both in units of time (seconds and hours) and in more obscure units, relating to what we think of as individual “Souls.” We would be “judged,” measured, to a strict, unalterable schedule, according to our individual levels of energy and awareness, at the precise moment in time that our number “came up.” We would be judged. Or so it would seem, from the point of view of my individual consciousness.
In fact, it was not merely human but Earth consciousness that was being processed. It was to be purified of all its baggage, of personal history, in order for the collective race memories to be culled, even as a crop is gathered at harvest time. The consciousness once identified (by itself) as “human” would thus enter into the next phase of its journey. The Judgment related to the degree to which the individual Soul had processed and purified itself of personal history, making ready for its passage. To what degree a Soul had performed the necessary self-processing, it would move smoothly and joyfully into the new realm. To the degree that it had not performed this task, however, it would endure the awful torment and indignity of being processed (by the Universe itself), stripped of its very identity. Since the identity (personal history) was all such a Soul had been conscious of during its physical life, then the process of unloading was rather one of being erased, an experience to all intents and purposes equivalent to—being damned on Judgment Day.
Our lives were given us for the dual purpose of gathering new memories for the Universe to increase its awareness (glow), and that of relinquishing all attachments to our identity via these experiences. Death, then, in ideal circumstances, was a return to our original state of being, increased in joy by the temporary experience of forgetting.
The reader may quickly come to understand how greatly burdened the author began to feel at the thought of communicating these apparent “truths” to his fellow humans, as lost in darkness and confusion as he had once been. Every teacher, prophet, and guru is driven by the same selfish desire to share—and if necessary impose—his newfound sense of enlightenment with others, thereby consolidating his experience and bringing it a little further into consensus reality. At the same time, he can assuage his own loneliness by finding more individuals with whom to talk about his experiences. Human need is what drives each and every one of us, regardless of what we need or what it drives us to accomplish. “Prophets,” artist, poets, gurus, are different only in the nature of their accomplishments and, perhaps more crucially, the intensity of their desire. It is only human, only natural—when you have seen God’s face and lived, witnessed the Eschaton, survived an Apocalypse and had a glimpse of Judgment Day—to suffer from an almost overwhelming desire to communicate this knowledge.
What I did was what anyone would do: I went slightly crazy, though no more crazy than sanity required of me in such circumstances. I assumed the mantle, gradually over time, without quite realizing I was doing it, of a fully-functioning “drug shaman.” Was I ever really a drug shaman? Or was I simply deranged by drugs and out of control? Like everything else, it depends on your point of view. Those for whom I played the role of fully-functioning drug shaman might have told you that I was. On the other hand, the few persons I considered more experienced, and hence more knowledgeable, than myself on such matters (the shaman who had kick-started me to begin with, for example), would have said (and did) that I didn’t know what I was doing.
As a “drug shaman,” I initiated as many people as I could into the invisible realms which DMT had opened up to me, in as short a time as possible. I didn’t use DMT, however, but another substance, saliva divinorum, which some people (though not me) consider even more powerful and/or deranging in its effects. Like DMT, I discovered salvia divinorum in Amsterdam, and knew at once that it was something I would do extensive research with. I purchased large quantities of it and transported them to Guatemala. (This was soon after my defining DMT experience, which among other factors had persuaded me to make a trip to Europe, starting in Amsterdam, where I first tried the salvia.) For several weeks, in various different countries, I had been smoking salvia in a ceremonial fashion, and believed I was coming closer and closer to a full experience of its devastating potential (specifically that for “out of body experiences”). In shamanic terms, saliva—unlike DMT—was becoming my ally, that is, I entered into a conscious relationship with the spirit(s) of the plant and formed a kind of pact with them. They would show me what they could do, and I would bring them people to do it to.
Smoking salvia invariably involved a gradual (though rapid) dissociation from the body and all the physical processes until I, that is to say, my consciousness, was entirely “exteriorized”—outside the physical realm. Yet paradoxically, the salvia experience also entailed, or appeared to entail, my consciousness entering into the cells themselves, at a sub-molecular level. In either or both cases, however, the result was that my sense of being a physical and separate body disappeared, and I became, for lack of a more scientific term, “pure energy.”
As was often the case when I smoked, my heartbeat was a primary factor in the gradual withdrawal of consciousness from ordinary bodily awareness. The experience was always (for me) more aural than visual. There was the sense of being asleep yet awake. On one occasion, I was able to feel my body leaning slowly backwards: I was falling asleep! I could hear laughing voices in my head, warning me to stay awake. The chorus of voices were singing/laughing, not words but something I understood, in words, as meaning, “Oh! There he goes!”
I righted my posture without knowing what I was doing. The idea of a body was now completely alien to me, even incomprehensible. It seemed like there were many bodies all nested inside each other. I could feel sweat dripping down my back and this was comforting to me. It was as if I was experiencing many “selves,” and the body with the sweat dripping down it was just one of them; it was reassuring to know that I was still there, in my usual self. The voices were telling me, cheerfully but also mockingly, not to go back to the body yet, to hang out a little while longer in the primal-fractal faery-molecule world with them. I was drifting ever slowly back towards “reality,” however, and they were laughing, coaxing me to suffer their presence some more. But I couldn’t fathom where I was, or indeed who or what I was.
The molecules had taken over. I had become a collective chorus of ecstasy, albeit a tad retarded, dampened perhaps, by years of sloppy living. I was a Collective Intelligence. Every cell and every molecule was alive and conscious of being alive: it was an Independent Entity Unto Itself. This was all of what I was. “I” had disappeared in the collective euphoria, laced with definite mischief and the sound of laughter. It was much like falling asleep, except that consciousness was unleashed rather than snuffed out. It was truly incredible to perceive that these entities were inside me, were me. To remember the body and yet not remember the self was the trick of this unfolding. To some small degree, I accomplished this later, when I smoked again on the streets of the town where I lived, surrounded by Saturday night activity.
To become a collective body, to realize oneself as a vehicle for unimaginably weird elf-like chattering spirit beings, beings who appeared to be preparing me, us, for some sort of cosmic (sexual) celebration, was to surrender all sense of being an isolate entity, an individuality. I became instead a vast, almost infinite hive-like circus playground of molecules and atoms. In a word, the Universe. These spirit-molecules were acting through us, they were acting as us. This was a world takeover, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a collective ecstasy of the cells; a revelation; an apocalypse. I had brought it down to basics at last. The Kingdom Within.
While devoid of fear, anxiety, or stress, this revelation was so monumentally strange, bewildering, and perplexing, as to be potentially deranging. There was also a certain sadness, for I sensed that the perfect love of the divine molecules was denied its voice, trapped inside us, literally dying to get out, dying to live. That night in bed, I felt how my body was cocooned, as if in the womb of the Universe, a tiny, fetal thing. The molecules were moving in. I was taken from the inside by the spirit molecule. The kingdom taken by storm. Molecular intensity momentarily resumed the throne in Eden. We live forever. No wonder they were laughing. The impatient had learned patience.
On every occasion that I “initiated” a friend, or friend of a friend, into the salvia mysteries, I performed a short ceremony, formally presenting the aspirant to the spirits, while making sure he or she was aware—as aware as able—of soliciting the guidance and intervention of a special power (neither higher nor lower, but definitely a “power”). In all but very few cases, the ceremony and the salvia combined to achieve the desired end, the spirits moved in, the person went out and experienced something unlike anything they had ever seen before. In consequence, however minimally, they were forever altered by the experience. Always, I felt confident in saying, for the better.
I believed the ceremonials were as essential as the substance itself to the person’s experiencing a new view of reality. On the occasions when, for whatever reason, I bypassed the ceremony, the effects of the salvia were considerably diminished, at times even non-existent. There are substances that are as reliable as bourbon in their effects, but salvia remains something of a mystery (even more than DMT) in the drug culture, and it is most definitely not for everyone.
Over a period of several months, I administered the salvia—introduced the spirits—to over a dozen different people on perhaps twice as many occasions, both male and female, ranging in ages between 15 and 60. Most of these occasions were “shamanic.” During my brief tenure as a drug shaman, I kept extremely busy, and I came to believe that a certain energy was building, like a wave preparing to break, as a direct result of these activities. The spirits of the salvia were becoming increasingly powerful from such a sustained period of worship (and such a work-out). Sooner or later (or so I might have foreseen, had I thought about it more), they were bound to get out of my control. Unfortunately, when it happened, I was not the only one who suffered the consequences.
The turning point came when I smoked, alone in my house one fateful night, while already under the influence of marijuana. This was the first time I had attempted such a maneuver, and the effects were considerably more drastic than I might ever have anticipated (I recounted some of this incident in Homo Serpiens). During this period (I smoked at about 10 p.m., and headed out into town an hour or so later), I moved about the house in a state of euphoria, interspersed with moments of sheer panic. Forever in front of me, I gazed into the Abyss, and was swallowed up by its gaze. I left finally and headed into town on my bike, intensely aware of the possibility of head-on collisions, and that the dark underlayer of my thoughts, though an agony to endure, was there for a reason. This was the Apocalypse. An awareness of “evil” was required, then, if only to provide sobriety and razor-sharp alertness. Beyond this, however, I knew it was mere indulgence, the most deadly kind of all. Each moment and each act (and each and every one of my thoughts) became the manner in which the Universe was testing me, as its “chosen one.” And each time, sure that I had followed the thought too far and fallen into total devolution, entropy, collapse, I was born again from the ashes, ready for the next challenge, the next thought, the next action. This state lasted for hours. There was no hope for a hopeless sinner. I had abandoned all that. I had entered the Inferno.
I saw reality as I had never seen it before: like an opening, a layer (lair?), a tunnel or labyrinth through which (as through all things) Spirit, God, Universal Energy, call it what you will, was flowing. For several hours, I bounced between being God and being caught in this 3-D “layer”—the lair of the Beast. I suffered the torments of the damned. Yet it was not the material realm itself that damned me, but rather each and every one of my thoughts. Each thought unraveled from the center of stillness like a serpent, a physical thing, and I was condemned to follow the thought, back to the reality of the self. Knots in space. Never could I have imagined that “enlightenment” would be like this. Never in my wildest fantasies. Who could be prepared for this?
As I roved about on this tide of pure force which I had become, the Totality of Manifestation within a single fleshy vehicle, I was confounded by the realization that, despite it all, I could not perform miracles, I was still as I had always been, but a man. It seemed perfectly within my capacities at that time, for example, to fly. I was God, after all. I recognized the desire to fly as innocent and natural, but also deadly. And the Powers assured me that the time would come for miracles, but chastised me not to lust after them in the meantime. An evil generation asks for a sign. It was clear that I simply lacked the technique, and that sheer desire was not enough.
It is difficult to convey the essence of the horror of this night, of my desperate need for salvation from my own decaying mind. I was hounded, goaded, by the total awareness that I was insane. I don’t ever want to recapture that feeling, the momentary certainty that I was damned forever. Knots are central to ancient (if primitive) sorcery practices (think of Celtic artwork). The final knot I had perceived, in the nick of time (my last-instant salvation), as an exploding atom, annihilating the thought of “evil” forever. Without this explosion, this capacity to wipe out all traces of negative thought in the moment it is about to swallow one up forever, we would indeed be lost. A sorcerer crossing the Abyss and returning to Primary Reality must control his thoughts and actions with unbending precision, lest his Heaven turn to Hell before his unbelieving eyes. Though it was appalling to contemplate, there was that fine a balance, that razor-thin a distance, between the extremes of Agony and Ecstasy.
When I finally went to bed, after staring at my reflection in the mirror for a time, things began to change, and I began to perceive a way to get back to ego consciousness without remembering that I was damned—or without forgetting? I wasn’t sure which, exactly, only that it seemed a nigh-impossible maneuver. I did not sleep that night. Rather, I moved through states of consciousness, forever negotiating, interacting, resolving, preparing, establishing connections, finding hope and help in other spells. I could never forget that it went both ways. Perfect Love or “ultimate evil,” it was we, and we alone, who decided.
At a certain point, I felt someone or something take me by the feet and pull gently, as if straightening my body. It felt like the hands of an Angel; an Archangel, perhaps, come to relieve the intolerable burden of my thoughts. From the jaws of damnation, salvation.
And then I was flying over an ocean that flowed and glowed with endless jewel-like colors, the purest beauty imaginable. The sky was filled with the music of the Angels, the music of God. They were singing to me, inside of me, that God was Love and Love was Perfect Beauty, and I knew I would never turn away from that Love again. I looked at my feet below me and then at my hands and I saw I was wearing a bright, glowing blue suit. I could think clearly and everything was clear and good, and freedom was mine once again, to cherish and enjoy. I flew on, basking in the beauty of awareness, hearing the sounds of the world, with my physical ears, while elsewhere God’s music filled my head, as I feasted upon the sights of the Other World, a world beyond death and pain and fear and “ultimate evil,” where all was God, and God was just a Word.
Following this truly sobering experience, I became perhaps a little crazier than my sanity demanded, and began to act in aberrational ways. A devoted animal lover, I strangled a cat that was sneaking into my house and eating my cats’ food. The cat did not die, or at least, though it did appear to die, it rapidly resurrected, in an event that to this day I cannot fully grasp. I went straight to the hearth fire and burned my left hand and scarred it. This was not so much penance but an attempt to purify my hand, to purge it of the horrible act. I felt damned by my own evil. Evil. Somehow, God knew how, by bringing the cat back to life, I had spared myself the inexorable Karma of what would normally have been an irrevocable deed. Maybe the beast wandered off and died; maybe it was brain-damaged for life. But somehow I knew it was OK. In fact, a few nights later, it came back to the house to scavenge for food! This time, I let it.
The week before the incident, I had behaved abusively towards a young friend who was living with me at the time. I had been “in love” with her over the past couple of years, but never managed to seduce her, and finally, something in me snapped. I fully intended to frighten her, yet I was at the same time somehow out of control of my actions. As later with the cat, I had the powerful sense that I was not acting as myself at all, but was standing outside of me, watching myself do something that “normally”—or rather previously—I would have been incapable of. That night, in penance, I burned my right hand. I still have the scar today.
With these two acts following rapidly one after the other, I understood that the Devil is not a nice guy. I also realized that I was, to all effects, losing my mind. But wasn’t this what I had secretly wanted, had been working towards, ever since I took those first, irrevocable steps towards the abyss? How was I supposed to separate losing the self from losing control over myself ? Enlightenment from madness? I was walking the razor’s edge between the two. I had been flirting with Lucifer for so many years that it came as a real surprise to find out that, maybe, He really was interested in me. In which case, flirting might not be the smartest of movies (as my friend found out), unless, that is, I was ready for full consummation. Was I ready? It is one thing to summon Satan in an abstract and poetic fashion, quite another to meet Him in person, or to embody Him. You don’t know what’s enough until you’ve had a taste of too much. I was learning all about the road of excess. I had known this in theory for a long time. Now I was into the trenches.
When I left Guatemala it was amidst a flurry of rumors, gossip, and outright slander that were setting the small town aflame (figuratively) and that revolved around my “shamantics” and how I had—in good Socrates fashion—“corrupted the youth” of the community. The version of events that finally reached my ears—and was at least partially responsible for my decision to leave—was that I was dealing heroin to school kids! The reader may easily imagine how the dark magic of Chinese whispers had gradually transmuted my irresponsible but well-intended psychedelic shenanigans into outright criminal behavior. But let them then consider how some of my other antics (for example, that for much of this time I had been living with three beautiful young Guatemalan girls, albeit platonically, but who would believe that?) had likewise transmogrified into distorted and grisly versions of reality, and they will quickly see that, in the eyes of the community—which thrives on nothing so much as a common enemy to fear and revile—I was beginning to resemble Satan himself.
No good deed goes unpunished. Of course, I was unleashing forces that were not merely beyond my control but beyond my understanding—never mind your average person’s. Naturally, the consequences were equally beyond my ability to foresee, and as likely to backfire in my face as not. Hence, it was no real surprise to hear these things, and in a perverted way, I found it strangely gratifying. It was doubly ironic, however, as by the time I did hear them, and immediately following my vision of damnation, I had sworn off all hallucinogenic substances, and was firmly advocating among my “tribe” both complete sobriety and sexual abstinence.
Needless to say, my new philosophy had little or no effect on them, since they were by now off and running with the same mad zeal and abandon as I had shown in the preceding weeks. Nor did my new leaf make any difference to the raging fire of rumor and condemnation. By this point, events had taken on a momentum of their own and I could all-too-easily see myself being hunted by God-fearing villagers bearing torches. Rather than wait around to see how bad it could get, I simply packed up my things and left.
The final act in this chapter of my life (ending my career and cementing my legend as “el loco” the drug shaman) came, in the center of town on a Saturday night, when I leapt from the first floor balcony of a local bar, onto the street below. It happened in full view of everybody, and for no good reason except (perhaps the oldest of them all) that the devil told me to. My very own sorcerer’s leap was no more than 12 or 15 feet, and mostly a way for me to test the waters of the Abyss. Previously, on the night of my damnation vision, driven by demons, I had made a similar leap from roughly the same height, off my terrace and onto grass (the same spot where the cat later resuscitated). Though this second leap was from a slightly greater height and straight onto concrete, I was convinced I could perform the same stunt without injuring myself. At least, I was curious to find out.
As I landed, I felt at once a blinding pain in my right heel. To conceal it, I began to dance, as if to make light of the whole affair in front of the shocked pedestrians (one of my “tribe” was passing at that moment). But the pain continued and even began to increase. Mind had not overcome matter and matter had taken vengeance upon mind. I limped home and went straight to bed. The next morning, I was barely able to stand. I was reduced to hobbling about with a cane for my last few days in Guatemala, and traveled to Panama in that condition. I had the heel X-rayed in Panama, but no break showed up, though there may have been a hairline fracture. It was going on a full year before I was able to walk without limping. For several years after that, I could still feel the bruise on my heel.
I had been marked by my own madness, in a traditional fashion. “Even in the morality plays of the Middle Ages, Satan could appear in disguise, but was always recognized by his limp, a sign of his fall from heaven.” (The Devil, the Fallen Angel.)