The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 19 To Be Able to Say: Thou, Really to Love
by ROLF AND ELSA VON ECKARTSBERG
THE HUSBAND-WIFE SITUATION becomes very complicated when psychedelics are involved. There is no metaphor to explain how or why, but if one member of a marriage has a session, it usually changes him so much that it changes the marital balance. This can be for the good, or it can prove disruptive. Many marriages have in time reached a delicate state of balance, a brittle symbiosis, and any shift in the posture and direction of one partner can throw all the machinery out of gear.
If a husband has a psychedelic session, it's as though he suddenly gets to go on a three-million-year space trip to several other galaxies, visiting and becoming involved with the more advanced forms of life there. Then he comes back home. By earth time he's been gone only ten hours. His wife, failing to understand the immensity of the experience, expects him to adjust immediately back to the familiar routine. She may try to understand but, failing to do so, may get bored or even angry. Her frustration is intensified if she had, as part of the bargain, the role of being the spiritual member of the marriage or the literary-poetic authority; now her husband is suddenly waxing poetic about the most philosophically profound issues.
If they have an easygoing, humorous, collaborative marriage, then she'll listen and will probably want to have a session herself, as soon as possible. But if there is much competition in the relationship, if the marriage is an uneasy truce, if there are one-up games going, then it will probably ensue that the wife forbids the husband to talk about LSD and becomes violently opposed to the idea of consciousness expansion.
The number of separations and divorces among the LSD researchers has gotten, in certain locales, to be unhappily high. Often the non-psychedelic spouse goes to a psychiatrist to find some ammunition to fire back in this new form of psychological warfareand then the battle really begins.
From the very beginning of our research at Harvard, we were aware of these dismal potentialities. One of the first questions we asked anyone who requested a session was: "Are you married?" If he was, then: "What does your wife think about it? Does she want to have the experience herself?" We didn't like to provide a psychedelic session for someone unless some plan was made for the spouse. She comes and sits during the session, or they take it together; Or the plan calls for the wife to have a session during the week following the husband.
As soon as subjects got to a point where they were sophisticated and sensible enough to handle psychedelics on their own, we were happy to set up a "home research." The couple would have a sequence of sessions together as long as they continued to write reports and contribute to our knowledge about the potential uses of psychedelics. In this manner we obtained continuous reports from couples who explored the variety of rituals and applications of the psychedelics in the context of marriage.
The next report is one such experience. Dr. Rolf von Eckartsberg, a psychologist, is going to have a session with his wife at home. This is, of course, the ideal place to have any deep personal experienceat home, with your wife. Both he and his wife report on this session.
This report is interesting in several ways. Notice that they get out of phase now and then. When she is sailing free, he is hung up, and vice versa. This is due to inexperience. With more sessions the subject learns how to ride through momentary panics; how to move consciousness around to different levels, how to flow with the process.
Another great lesson in this account is how to get free from a low spot. The husband gets bogged down and depressed. He does not ask for a tranquilizer or beg to be taken back to reality. He takes more pills and blasts himself free. This is exactly the procedure we have found most effective. It's like being in a plane which stalls. What do you do? You do exactly what your fear tells you not to doyou point the nose of the plane down and you dive, pick up more speed and establish control. Some LSD researchers have effectively employed injections of DMT or Ritalin for this kind of purposeto break out of a static, repetitive hallucination.
A third and equally important aspect of this report is the sexual. With exquisite delicacy the couple describe a union, a merging which can be more complete and intertwined than they had ever dreamed possible. The question of whether LSD is an aphrodisiac cannot be answered yes or no. As always, it depends on the set and setting. LSD produces a non-specific enhancement of the quality of neural energy. This heightened "charge" can be channeled in a number of different waysinto pure aesthetic receptivity, into intellectual or intrapsychic problem-solving, into emotional-devotional flowing, into sexual union if the setting is appropriate, or into the total experiential fusion of mystic unity. It can even manifest itself in heightened kinesthetic-muscular responsiveness, as adepts of hatha yoga, or certain groups of surfers and rock climbers have discovered. Certainly the male-female union is a natural biological and psychological vehicle for transcendent experiences, as Chinese Taoists and Hindu Tantrists have long taught.
THE HUSBAND'S REPORT (Cambridge, 1962)
STARTED OUT BY taking three pills and did not feel very good physiologically after this. Was somewhat tense and anxious, whereas my partner seemed very gay and relaxed, obviously flooded with sensory stimulation and pleasant emotions. She also appeared to become rather seductive and issued symbolic invitations to which I felt completely unable to respond. I was out of it and she was in itand we were not together.
In the beginning I had had a few very pleasant sensations and hallucinations, which engulfed me and in a way lifted me up and carried me into a fantastic realm of imaginary existence, which had the general feeling tone of extreme modernity. I felt as if I were traveling at great speed through space in a warm and cozy capsule, much like an airplane's cabin with rounded walls and heavily muted, soft carpets. I was exposed to beautifully colored designs and patterns. The music that emanated from the record player filled the room distinctly and heavily at times, seemingly exerting a sort of atmospheric pressure, and at other times appearing quite lucid and lean like a delicately filigreed tree, representing the only fragile stability and continuity in this reverie. It seemed indeed like a very intensive dream, which involves one, or in which one participates without asking questions. As soon as questions arise one is transposed into an entirely different realm of reality; one conspicuously drags in the heavy and burdensome reality of everyday life and familiarity. It seems like a devaluation of the sensitive and exotically and tenderly beautiful.
During these experiences I became intermittently aware of a feeling of loneliness and emptiness, or discrepancy in relation to my partner; we were living, as it were, only alongside of each other. We were feeling in different directions; there was no encounter, no crossing of direction. In addition to this, my visions became more distorted and ugly. I had images of grotesque forms before my eyes, the same re-creation of Picasso's Guernica-type visions as I had had during the first sessiondisconnected limbs, distorted, twisted bodies, eerie apparitions. However, there was a peculiar lack of emotional underpinning; I could visualize distortions and ugliness without feeling it. No emotional reaction, only visual experience and the awareness of distance between me and the images perceived.
My partner was floating through space, giggling, squirming, fluttering like a butterfly in erratic movements. She was talking in a cryptic manner, in symbols, insinuations, ambiguously unambiguous. I got the messageit is beautiful, but it could be even more so if I were not alone, if I could share and participate or be participated in. I understood what she said or I misunderstood; it was purely sexual, I thought, and I was very much aware of the possibility of a misunderstanding, but anyway, I just could not respond in any way, I was unable to give any answer. I felt deaf inside, deaf and mute, dead, nothing moved me, I could not give of myself. I was locked in and locked up. I longed for liberation but nothing was forthcoming. I felt very much rejected, rebuffed, bewildered, but not offended or angry or full of hateno, only puzzled: why am I so removed, so far away, why am I out of it, not part of it, not communicating, without contact? I found myself standing apart, removed by worlds, only half real, half empty and half dead.
I took two more pills, one after the other, at about forty-minute intervals. I had been wandering about the apartment and standing before objects, puzzled, as if recognizing them for the first time. Everything seemed new and in a way strange. I returned to her, then, and laid down beside her. She seemed quiet and also bewildered; she asked repeatedly: Where am 1, how did I get here? Then, first slowly and then rapidly accelerated, I felt being lifted up and swept off my feet. I had felt cold and had crawled under some blankets. She was cuddling up to me and the warmth gradually penetrated into our depth. I then gradually became aware of movement, a rocking type of movement, like on a roller coaster, yet I did not move my body at all. I felt like on a merry-go-round. I got to swinging, but how? With an overwhelming acceleration I was turning around and around, swirling, then shuttling back and forth, like a piece of potassium on water, hissing, sparkling, full of life and fire. I had to hum and imitate the noises of racing cars as they were rushing past, the howling of engines, the shrieks of rockets being launched. The noises and sounds went berserk and toppled overthey overwhelmed me like an avalanche and thunder coming to a ringing crescendo. I felt that I was soaring farther and farther into space in wild loops and dives. Now she asked me what was happening, where I was, is it real or are you pretending. I could bear her only faintly. Now I was in it and she was out of it. She was knocking at the door; in a way, she challenged me, she asked: But this is senseless... what is the purpose of it all? But I could not understand: What do YOU mean: purpose, senseless. This is interpretation. Words, thoughts, ideas, all THIS is meaningless, all this has no relevance. I am. Sum ... Summum Bonum. Everything is turning over on itself. Now she follows; partially she is able to bang on, to come along, but only to fall behind again. I become accelerated to an unbelievable degree. I am within and out of myself at the same time, I have no body any longer, no sense of structure or organization, I am like a bowl that can be seen from the inside and the outside at the same time, a vessel full of gas, full of spirit, my own spirit. I am nothing but spirit, a spirit that is trying to become intertwined and mingled with another spirit. I am far removed, all structure, all traditional forms and connections, all relationships have dissolvedall that lies far behindI am looking down on all this while I am on my way tumbling through space. I am a boiling, amorphous, almost gaseous mass of sensation without localization, only sensation sparks, electricity. I experience now a wonderful openness, I am held in the grasp of a comprehensive clarity, lucidity, like very clear, warm, transparent glass. This is the most natural way and feeling. It is selfevident not to try to say anything, to express anything, but only to experience. The speed grows still further. She follows, she falls into line, dancing beside me and through me, just like clouds drifting through each other.
To be able to say: Thou, really to love, to become one, to merge, synthesis, new creation, self-abandonment, completion and sacrifice are beckoning. Yes, yes, Thou thou, we, together, unique, never, always, eternal. Only youa frenetic dance in which everything is dissolved and intertwined. Are we dead... alive... spiritual ... eternal? There is no expression for this. One cannot take hold, touch, look atone can only be pure, intensive Being. Penetration, interpenetration, resonance, harmony. The bodiliness or corporeality is still suspended. Things loose themselves in vibrations, matter is transformed into energythere are no objects, no boundaries, no individual processes or autonomous units anymore, everything is in flux, everything is flowing together, toward becoming One, toward the eternal Synthesis. IThouWeAllCan there still be more, intensification, acceleration? I threaten to go out of my mind, I am bursting, breaking apart. Everything dissolves, becomes liquid, only to flow together into a large encompassing reservoir of power and energy. Sheer raw power, leading to an explosion. It cannot stop now. The chain reaction is triggered; it will shatter everything. Will I become pulverized into a myriad of atoms? I? Who? What is this? Pure ecstasy, shouting, shrieking, beyond everything. BEYOND. Eternity. Silence, it has to come, the release, the relief, the redemption, it has to come out and it has to enter. Transcendence and metamorphosis. Everything is now rushing toward one single unique gigantic peak, all veils are left behind, closer and closer toward the center, toward the essence. Now it takes on a sexual connotation, a translation, but only as a symbol of sexual union as creation, to bring forth something entirely new, to sacrifice oneself for the other, and together with the other, for the new, for a child? NOmuch too concrete; this is vague, more ambiguous and indefinable yet very certain, much closer, closer to the Source, above everything, divineYes, that's it. I know, I understand, I have it, I am it, we finally meet, we flow over, we are crying, can we cry? to flow together in tears complete communication. This is a final upswing, a leap beyond time and space.
We are all dead and alive, you and 1, not only you and I, but we all together in one unityShould that be silly or crazy?How inadequate, how petty, how ignorant, how limited. Here I am, here are we, here is ... everything. Muted speech, silent wisdom, a ringing shout rising from the depth of the soul. A blinding light and grace and being saved.
This is a complete union, a liberation in complete sacrifice, absolute yes to the other, complete giving of oneself, complete without reservation or shadows, pure and crystally warm affirmation of the Thou, pure openness, new birth.
It is as if I see everything for the first time, I feel that I can see through everything. I stand like a child before the wonder of this world. I feel like God. I absorb everything that I encounter, I take in every nuance and subtlety. For the first time I feel like a complete human being, centered in myself, yet an open platform, nothing to bide, completely reconciled and in harmony, a true partner, a steady pole. I seem to be able to look through all artificialities. If only I can maintain this complete openness. If only I do not ever have to enter again into the poisonous attitude of trying to realize advantages, to create personal empires at the expense of others, to try to impress, to try to encapsulate myself expecting solace and rescue, if I could only keep this being-there, being ready, being open, being with others and in others.
THE WIFE'S REPORT (Cambridge, 1962)
as I suddenly rise ever faster ever higher rocketlike thrown into outer-inner space I feel I break free, drop the burden of the alltooheavy EARTH, enter the primordial worlds of AIR WATER FIRE: my human sculptured marblebody melts away down to the skeleton, enraptured I feel I am being burned to the marrow of my bones saintlike stripped of my wholly superfluous flesh: burned free, overcome by the power of the ELEMENTS, flame myself, purified-purifying, consummated by water, air, light all around, calling me back to finally be WAVE againafter so many years of dying from thirst in the desert of my life WATERWAVE LIGHTWAVE LIGHT: ever more rapidly and unhindered I leave the human world and follow everything that draws me wavelike into the open: nothing rigid, no stones or rocks remain, no wallsthe fortresses of bodies unenlightened crumble: translucent are the halls of the City of Heavens, its quarters built of lightyears of splendorous seconds, oceans upon oceans, lightseconds of everlasting blasting columns temples pyramidsHades is down there somewhere in the death-filled depth, I am rising, breaking free, Persephone, white o white, into purple skies bursting with the radiance of countless ageless, reckless springs: o bathing in the alloverpowering white caressing foam of blossomstars, picking the sun, flower of flowers, smelling its fragrance entranced: no night is left, no depth, my origin forgotten, my telos touched, my future given into my hand, but the hand does not weigh anymore, nothing weighs anymore, for TIME who weighs down matter has withered awayI am a vapor expanding, one with the thrust of galaxies, I feel a gigantic moon overshadowing me violently violet but I am no longer afraid, I float in the torrential stream of timelessness, one with it, toward the borderline of Being, feel the grapes of eternity between my frozen lips starved, on the journey through the sandstorms of lust and the maelstroms of death to the height of enlightenment where I am now, the grapes of blood, the blood of exploding life between my lips transfigured into eyes into skies, seeing BEINGthe height and the depth, the ever and now, fate and futility, chance, chastity, and forever exploding lifeI feel I float to the core of my being, the center of the universe, feel that it is LOVE, nostalgic interpenetration of radiant dreams incarnating each other, or bodies who are transfigured into dreams by the power of longing, desire, vision aloneI feel as open and immense as the inexhaustible universe around me and join in the evergrowing everlasting dance of atoms of light embracing each other: LIGHT LIGHT, SONS OF THE SUN, lighthearted dance in light per saecula saeculorum: death where is thy sting, hell where is thy victory... I have to close my eyes, for it is too much, too much brightness blinding, fulfillment, vision, blissI long for ages of sleep, dark sleep in the tomb of the earth, I feel myself accepting it all, even the PRISON I HAD LEFT before entranced: the tomb, the womb: I feel I have the power to change life... into light, transform into fiery lava-energy even the most obstreperous and impenetrable marblematter.
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