The Ecstatic Adventure
Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World
Chapter 23 The Refinement of Vision
by GRAY HENRY
THE GREAT PHILOSOPHER-SCIENTIST R. Buckminster Fuller once pointed out that "scientists see the sun 'going down' when they have known for five hundred years that it isn't 'going down.'" Our senses are mostly disconnected from our brains. Our perceptions are fragmented and generally registered in terms of the tribal stereotypes of the moment. Consider light: normally we do not "see" light; light is merely the passive medium of seeing objects in the "external world." Yet physics tells us that light is active, radiant energy, traveling at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, in the form of waves. Now consider this observation made under LSD: "I was suddenly aware of my capacity to 'watch' light, such as that emitted from a nearby lamp. It left its source in semicircular waves."
LSD seems to restore the integrative functionsense experiences of different modalities are fused, sense and intellect are tuned to the same wavelengths. Sensory fusion is not confined to psychedelic states. In recent years there have been reports of "dermal vision"the ability to sense colors through the fingertips. Naturally gifted "sensitives," who consistently emphasize that their abilities, though unusual, are not abnormal, report similar processes. Eileen Garrett, in her autobiographical Adventures in the Supernormal, wrote: "Difficult as it may be to accept, the fact is that I found myself seeing more easily and clearly through my fingertips and the nape of my neck than through my eyes.... Sound was a current that flowed through me and vibrated intensely through the bone structure." (p.87) Perhaps it is precisely at the interface of different sense modalities that the possibilities of non-usual perception will emerge.
When a person reports, as in the following account, that she could hear voices in the street many floors below, we have to go a step further than merely saying that "hearing has become very acute." Perhaps in some way the sensing entity has become separated from the physical body. Mediumistic trance perceptions and clairvoyance point to this possibility. The subsequent occurrence of mental telepathy in this LSD experience suggests that something along these lines was taking place. If two human transmitter-receivers are sufficiently empathic to be able to tune to the same wavelength, then apparently thought waves can be transmitted without first being converted to spoken words. If radio can do it, why not the human brain? The block to its occurring normally is our inability to "tune" the receivers or transmitters. LSD, by permitting consciousness on several levels at once, becomes specifically a tuning device for the senses.
Experiences of interpenetrating solid bodies, as reported here, may cause psychological discomfort to a mind conditioned by the prevailing "scientific" world view, where such things are "impossible." The fact that philosophers of science have long since recognized that science does not give 11 reality," but a model, and that a model is subject to change does not reduce the feeling of impossibility. Let us consider, hypothetically, a different model, where such an occurrence is not only possible, but common. Lewis Spence, in his 1920 Encyclopedia of Occultism, explains the theosophical view of the astral body:
The astral body... is composed of matter, relatively much finer than that which composes the ordinary physical body... it interpenetrates and extends beyond the physical body.... When it separates from the denser bodyas it does during sleep, or by the influence of drugs, or as the result of accidentsit takes with it the capacity for feeling, and only with its return can pain or any other such phenomena be felt. (p. 41)
The two accounts which follow, written by a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College in her early twenties, are beautiful examples of the progressive refinement of vision and sensory tuning which can occur with successive psychedelic experiences. If observations such as these can be verified and replicated, then we may begin to see the domain of knowledge long regarded as occult finally come into the light of shared scientific understanding.
EARLY IN THE day, as I sat observing a stone which I was holding in my hand, I noticed that the music I was listening to pulsed through me, striking my very organs at their core. I had the sensation that the stone and I were being breathed through; the rhythm was quite apart from that of my own lungs. Each breath was much longer, far subtler and incredibly gentle. I was suddenly aware of my capacity to "watch" light, such as that emitted from a nearby lamp. It left its source in semicircular waves. Any sound made, or new beam of light, was perceptible to my vision quite clearly. Different intensities of light, for instance, were registered in varying degrees of concentrations composed of dark and light triangles. Parallel with or slightly above my line of gaze was a flat, undulating wave, similar in texture to tightly woven Navajo basketry and recalling the early Greek geometric art style. I enjoyed my heightened sensitivity to the activity of light immensely.
Later on, I asked one of my guides if the trembling of my body could be seen. The negative reply suggested to me that possibly the perception I had gained was the result of some part of my consciousness having been sped up to a ratio of, or the approximate speed itself, of the objects I viewed. My body was not traveling at the speed of light, but I was soon to understand that some parts of the mind are seemingly extricable from one's anatomical confines.
I might add that while recently attending evening vespers at a Trappist monastery, I found myself able to duplicate my LSD talent with no drug whatsoever. Thus I came to consider the possibility that LSD's effect is not one of speeding up the consciousness but of concentrating its energies into a state of acuteness, of total awareness. I found that I could watch the music played on the day of my unusual holiday. Admittedly, it was not so well defined; however, I believe that further effort on my part would in time yield similar precision.
Under LSD, eyes shut or open, I watched colored anemone-like forms whose tendrils were translucent, revealing a vertebral inner structure. These swayed in time to the music. When not under the drug, I found that what I refer to as "electrical particles" (the white sparks one can see from bed after the light is put out, in the atmosphere, upon the ceiling or on the reverse of the eyelid), present in any given space, moved to the different sounds to which I was present. It was raining outside the monastery chapel. The audible pelting registered before me as two small waterfalls composed of finely segmented threads of light points, pouring into one another. As the rhythm and tone of the chant changed, so did such shape-images as the sigmoid and other flowings. I could tell a chant was nearing its close, not by the faculty of bearing, but by my capacity to keep my attention on the shapes before me. Any new light or sound joined the electrical dance contained within the Gothic confines of the church. The arched roof and architectural embellishment kept the entire room alive, because its form caused the particles in general to gyre, or move circularly, toward the altar, which stood at the end opposite my gallery perch.
But, to return to LSD proper; soon after the drug began taking effect, I commented in reference to the objects about me in the room, "I am with them. No longer do I feel myself in control." The concreteness of the walls seemed an illusion, all things were a mirage. The stiff line one recognizes as the corner of a room moved in serpentine undulations. The stone I held seemed to have something in common with my skeletal structure. My flesh parts seemed transitory, extremely subject to decay. I found speech nearly impossible. I had an occasional taste of what life must be like for a paranoiac. I now have reason to sympathize. The molecular movement of supposed inanimate matter became strong and unavoidable to the eye. Perspectives changed from moment to moment with intensive decidedness. As my attitude or train of thought varied, so did furniture sizes.
Very early in the day, I had the distinct sensation of the independence of one portion of the mind from the body. As I gazed about, it was as though my consciousness were in a blue flying saucer peering out of its eyelike windows. Something of this impression may be created if one thrusts out his chin, partially closing the eyelids. The familiar world stretches out to one's downcast eyes. But a slight raise into the darkness behind the lid is entrance for the vision into a vast, possibly infinite territory. When at last I closed my eyes to the world external to my body, I found myself present to a dimension not to be captured by words save for a surface scanning. I became self-conscious of a process one is normally unaware of. The undisciplined train of thought which the mind usually entertains without concentration became acutely obvious to me. I could watch my mind as it changed standpoints from moment to moment.
My guides cut a hole in a green pepper, and I peeped inside. Its interior, a myriad of seeds clustering symmetrically about the center, makes a useful analogy for the structure and activity of the mind as I saw it. it would seem that in a conversation, for example, one's perspective is in constant flux. A given topic is approached quite unconsciously by the speaker from, let us say, anthropological and philosophical standpoints, tempered by egocentric or humanistic, perhaps psychological considerations in mind. In terms of the pepperif we call its center the spark of human consciousnessthe activity of speech is very like continual retraction from one little seed pod into another and then speaking out from it. The voice chatters on, reporting the finds made by a traveling dot of light, i.e. the individual consciousness. Now, let us say that each of these seeds extends infinitely outward, not as a seed but a sheetas an entire dimension imperceptible to the vision of one's anatomical eye. I suddenly found that my "self" (whatever that is... I called it a tiny beam or point of light) was able to,vander freely from one plane of reality to the next. I mostly stayed between the sheets of vibrations or at a slight distance from the entire machine that I might observe the whole and not be confused by any one of its components. To my inner eyenot my imagination, for I did not invent this myself ... or did I?it was something that may be compared to the wire sunbursts, whose fine precision is almost vicious in appearance, to be seen in the Metropolitan and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Each wire is to represent an entire and infinite plane. Occasionally, I would open my eyes and return to my terrestrial-level body propped up in the room of my LSD experiment; that did not cause the multitudinous dimensions to disperse, because they became our very fabric.
When asked how one gets to these other levels in a normal state of mind, the best directions I could come up with advised the voyager to go through any sparkle of light that happened to be present... the gleam on a doorknob for example. By shutting my eyes I resumed my observation station of "reality." Quite by surprise, an entire cultureAztec, I thoughtseemed to pass through my consciousness grid ... or, perhaps it was the world's, for it was difficult to distinguish whether or not it was my own mind I was regarding or a realm including all the worlds and vibrations composing the entire universe, the structures seeming identical. It was as though the two vibrational sheets were invisible, or took turns being so.
When asked, "Who are you?" I replied, "Just happenings. There is no 'self,' just different points of perspective. There is no I you,' for you are all things at once." I was prompted to this last by the astounding prospect of being under flesh and skin, yet simultaneously everywhere else at once. I commented, "You can't establish where the mind is... it can't be located!"
"How was the past understood in terms of all I now saw?" was the next problem for me to solve. It was so very hard a thing to touch upon that I almost decided not to labor after a verbalization at all. The difficulty hinged on the fact that all reality was totally present, including the past and future. At last, I ventured, "Well, the past is in the feedback, you know, like in cybernetics." For the first time I understood the idea of being "creator, participator and observer" at the same moment. The idea that I was "creator" was new to me. For some time I have been familiar with Niels Bohr's contribution to physics with the idea of "complementarity," whereby a scientific experiment requires that the mental outlook of the scientists be taken into consideration, for he is the "participant-observer." The recent additionthat I might be a creator as wellwas not an entirely cheerful prospect. It was quite lonely traveling in abstract dimensions. I have nothing against such works of wire as "Variation Within a Sphere No. 10: The Sun" by Richard Lippold, but I would never choose to remain in a room alone with this piece for eternity. I have a new appreciation of the blessed condition I am usually found in, i.e. among people.
Not all I fell upon can be seen in terms of wish fulfillment or theories of my own substantiated, as some would have it. I began considering the concept which holds that the personality survives deathwhich I believe in. LSD did not permit me this. The machine of a universe I met told me, "You are not any one person. The personality does not continue on." I was horribly disappointed, although reincarnation was not ruled out and this gladdened me. This contradiction to my own beliefs tended to make me doubt the worth of LSD, because one's beliefs are based on what one feels to be absolutely true until somehow proven untrue. But what is truth anyway? It must be all that is present, to the edge of infinity, perhaps witnessed in the balance of nature as beheld by man. Tonight I was lying on a bench gazing up into a tree; I bung my head over the side and looked at the sunset on a tree-studded horizon, upside down. And lo! it seemed like a reflection in a pond. I wondered where the world I saw mirrored really was. Perhaps the "antimatter" we now hear about stood opposed to the reflection and perhaps was a sort of consciousness itself, visualizing what you and I have before us and speaking words beginning and ending all things... as I have done in one sense by presenting my vision to you. When asked the nature of my experience during its expiration, I answered, "This is an experience of life itself, of existence." I fairly shouted with unintelligible joy at my state. It was one of exultation, wonder and awe, amazement over Being. I laughed until tears came to my eyes, crying out, "This is fantastic! Beyond words!" That it wasand isand ever shall be.
The second time I took LSD I was afraid. I was with my friend F., who emphasized that "letting go" was the key. It took some time before I could achieve this release. At first the multicolored mosaic of space seemed to stretchas if it were bubble gum blown so large and thin it would surely pop. Indeed the known world seemed as if it would soon rip and fly apart in small pieces. I so much thought that the world was about to end that I was convinced that everyone, regardless of whether under LSD or not, was experiencing the identical phenomenon. My sense of hearing had become either terribly acute or freed of certain inhibitions which tell us that logically we can't bear certain distances. I found myself listening to people talking on the street, many floors below. I was overwhelmed by the heaving of the walls and the lime electric ceiling cracks. Paranoia set in and I began to be afraid of F., whom I had known only a few months. But soon this fright dissolved as we engaged in the purest form of mental telepathy I have ever experienced. It was very humorous to say something in thought only and he answered back by the same. Great laughter ensued as our mental conversation became verbal, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
I looked at my watch and would have liked to have commented (as everything was really awful and awe-full), "Well, this will all be over in about eight hours." No such comfort! Instead a different thought occurred"Hours! What does eight hours mean?" A total loss of category. I could no longer understand the concept of time. A little later it occurred to me that night and day don't progress linearly in time but flip on and off in order to keep our biological happenings in order... sleeping, waking, eating, etc. These give us a time sense because we grow physically, but in actuality time is not a progressing dimension but an event which provides an opportunity for the mind to do something. That "something" is the question.
When we had jumped into a cab earlier, I had banged myself into the opposite door when I bounced across the seat. To my surprise, I saw what has been called the subtle or ether body rebound back a little faster than my gross body, slightly apart and in front. This subtle body was again met in the trip when F. and I decided to go into a different room and found ourselves able to walk through the unopened door ... like Superman. This, of course, is unverifiable since no one else was present, but it was not our only experience of this sort. During the initial high and for several hours afterward, we found that we could pass our arms through one another's, and that if we embraced, we nearly fell through each other. The state occurred when indeed we both had seemingly "let go" of that enquiring faculty which initially persisted as the urge to understand a new experience within a known frame of reference. At this moment of freedom, we became part of an enormous beam of white light, where we remained in bliss before the descent back commenced. It seemed as though our immateriality resulted from a cessation of desire of any kind. As LSD wore off and we returned to physicality, tiny desires began to pulse within, such as hunger for food and the renewal of the sexual instinct. While I had dwelt as pure white light, I had for a moment attempted to survey my life. At the time I could find no sense in all my projects and running around New York City. Everything to which I had attached any importance appeared absurd. As a sense of coherence returned to these daily activities, I could discern the outlines of F.'s arm.
The return from the light found us particularized as mere masculine and feminine principles staring at each other. The great Creator Force Love sought to magnetize us. Our faces appeared as mandalas. As the two principles looked with love, an emerald crystal came to be between us, which instantly burst into a mandala spreading toward infinity. It was as if we witnessed the essence of creationmasculine and feminine principles attracted by the love force. It was extraordinarily beautiful.
The return continued with us as microscopic animals in the sea becoming more and more complex creatures. History intervened. F. was suddenly a bull with a Cretan acrobat upon his back.
As it was dawn, we were as we had been the day before, but not really.
In the year and a half which followed my first two trips I took LSD several times more. Each time I had ideas and experienced feelings entirely new to me.
Making love under LSD is really where it's at. I find I am reduced to my sex. As a female it is interesting that my mind becomes swamped with images of warm earthen meadows or, at times, the sea, where men are harbors and ships tossed by many-mooded mother ocean. For years I have read about things such as the Oedipus complex. These seemed totally impossible to me, as I had never felt any of them myself. Mere fiction! However, while making love with my beloved, I found my mind crashing through barriers. In my arms, my lover was my son. I was that state of mind, and for an instant I became the Queen. Understanding or true cognition is only possible when one merges with that other, which in every case is not really "other" but rather part of oneself never before faced. My person was in constant flux as I traversed the many corners of the mind. I can understand, now, how someone can get "hung up" by getting caught up in one of these corners, bouncing hopelessly around, taking some limited particular for their whole.
Something which seems vital to me occurs from the energy of ecstasy. I "see" a paisleylike form which is composed of all the rainbow's colors; it seems both wet and dry. I get the idea that the colors are all sound vibrations. The fact that it is like electric water is interesting when one thinks of water's significance.
After one sits gazing at a candle and feels that the flame and the band and the music and water running in the bathroom are the same "stuff," and after one experiences oneness with all men or that illusion, then one begins to understand the word "ineffable." When someone asks me to describe an experience of LSD and I must use that adjective, I try to explain: "Wellsay one has a pie of many pieces and each is of a different flavorsomeone asks you what kind of a pie it is. Because of the nature of speech, you can only speak of one flavor at a time. To give a list of the flavors doesn't capture the essence of the pie, which can be said only if you could say all the different pieces at once."
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