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The Ecstatic Adventure

  Reports of Chemical Explorations of the Inner World

    Chapter 3 — Of Hell and Heavenly Blue


THE AUTHOR OF the following report, a professional clinical and research psychologist, is presently director of the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he is doing important work on the relationship of ESP to dreaming and sleeping. Previously he had done work on hypnosis, and his interest in unusual phenomena led him early to investigate for himself the psychedelic substances and their possible implications for psychology.
    Dr. Krippner was one of the few psychologists who realized right from the start that the only way to study these drugs properly is to take them. You don't learn anything of significance by watching a subject under LSD. It is not a behavioral drug. The observations have to be made on oneself. It is merely an academic prejudice that prevents one from recognizing that it is quite possible to be scientific about data of the internal world. It is not where you make your observations that distinguishes scientific from other kinds of data; it is what you do with them afterwards. The criterion of scientific method that has been elaborated by philosophers of science in this century is replicability—can the observations made be communicated to and repeated by others? In that sense, the reports in this book may be considered the first halting steps toward a genuinely scientific approach to states of consciousness, taking up a tradition of disciplined systematic introspection begun by the "fathers" of modern psychology, Wilhelm Wundt, Gustav Fechner and William James, all of whom were concerned with the systematic study of experience.
    Dr. Krippner illuminates the conditions of a "hellish" experience: loneliness and isolation are the root cause of human anxiety. In a psychedelic voyage one becomes acutely aware of the facts of one's life. Aloneness, normally masked, becomes magnified into agonizing loneliness. It is noteworthy that Dr. Krippner anticipated this result: I had misgivings about taking the seeds alone." Most people have an instinctive awareness of what aspects of their psyche will be amplified under LSD; many stay away from it for that reason.
    Note also that Dr. Krippner finally transforms his hellish experience into a peaceful one through mental contact with the great visionary prophets of the Old Testament. If one can remember, or if the guide can remind one, that one is not alone, that thousands have taken this voyage and have faced and overcome the same pangs of isolation and despair, then one is already on the road back.

DESPITE THE WARNINGS from Huxley, Watts and others, it was impossible for me to conceive that I should ever have an unpleasant psychedelic experience. My two original psychedelic, or "mindmanifesting," sessions had been completely pleasant and positive.
    Having heard of successful experiments with morning-glory seeds, a previously neglected psychedelic substance, I resolved to try them myself. Doing some research on the subject, I discovered that:

The early chroniclers of Mexico wrote on numerous occasions of ololiuqui, the sacred vision-producing, lentil-like seed of a vine with cordate leaves. It was illustrated by several writers: the best drawing is that found in the voluminous study of the medicinal plants, animals, and stones of New Spain by Hernandez, personal physician to the King of Spain, who carried out his field work in Mexico from 1570 to 1575. Hernandez clearly sketched a morning glory.

Most of the chroniclers were men of the church who railed violently against this "diabolic seed" valued by the pagan Indian as a divine messenger capable of taking man's mind to spirit realms. The true identity of ololiuqui, nevertheless, was in doubt for almost four centuries....

Several Mexican writers had expressed their belief that ololiuqui was, in truth, a morning glory, but it was only in the late 1930's that actual botanical material was collected…. Chemists, however, were unable to isolate any active principles until, in 1960, Hofmann demonstrated the presence in seeds of Rivea corymbosa of amides of lysergic acid...hitherto known only from the fungus, ergot.... *

    Locating a garden-supply store, I purchased three packages of Heavenly Blue Morning Glory seeds (Ipomoea rubro coerulea.) The front of each package pictured a vibrant blue bloom and noted that the Mandeville and King Company had "triple-tested" the seeds of this "distinctly superior" variety.
    On a summer evening in 1963, I prepared tea by crushing and boiling the seeds. Earlier in the evening I had seen the film Purple Noon starring Alain Delon. The photography had, I thought, been rather spectacular, and would be a fine prelude for the even more fantastic scenery I expected to perceive.
    I had misgivings about taking the seeds alone. My close friends Bruce and Olga had just left on their honeymoon, and I was hundreds of miles from any other companions who would have been interested in guiding a session. I had a very high "expectancy set" toward colored visions and acute sense perceptions, but doubted that I would experience the warm and tender feelings of universal love and companionship that had emerged from my previous two group sessions. As a precaution, I had my physician I s phone number on band and had secured an antidote.
    At 11:00 I drank the morning-glory tea. In about forty-five minutes, I felt the tingling in my fingertips that had foreshadowed my previous periods of expanded consciousness. I promptly turned on my phonograph and closed my eyes. Tchaikowsky's Romeo and Juliet had never sounded more beautiful. I found myself thinking of music in terms other than those usually associated with the auditory sense: "That passage is so sweet that I can taste it"; "That strain sounds bright orange"; "That passage contains so much violence that I can feel the vibrations."
    My visual imagery was not as intense as it had been during my previous two sessions. The visions occupied only a small range of the possible spectrum when I closed my eyes. Nevertheless, I could see a small waterfall above which sparkled like a brilliant rainbow. I envisioned two bright red salmon, swimming upstream. On the shore, I could see a mound of brilliant silver art objects. On the other shore, I discerned a hill of bright gold coins.
    The most recurrent theme was human. Dozens of faces, all of them strangers, passed before my eyes. Each one appeared for a few seconds and then disappeared as another took its place. They were faces of men, women, boys and girls of all ages, races and cultures.
    The phonograph stopped. I opened my eyes and noticed that the carpet in my apartment was a luxurious shade of green interwoven with threads of vivid blue. It was almost like a small lake with ripples catching the gleams of the sun. I put the records away and went to bed, thinking that this was the extent of my third psychedelic experience.
    I went to bed, but I did not go to sleep. As a matter of fact, I did not get to sleep during the entire night. As the minutes went by, I began to feel slightly depressed. As depression is a rare mood among my repertoire of feelings, I attributed the condition to the briefness of my psychedelic session and my subsequent disappointment. However, by about 1:00 A.M., I suspected that the depression was more basic. Instead of disappearing, it increased in severity, and I sensed that it had been with me all along. The frenzy of my professional life had masked my anxiety. The chemicals in the morning-glory seeds, however, had expanded my consciousness to the extent that I was face to face with a very important element of my nature.
    As the hours progressed, I was able to identify the cause of my depression. It was loneliness and loss, separation from friends and the absence of meaningful human relationships. The pangs of loneliness became more and more acute. Finally, they became so painful that I swallowed the antidote.
    Strangely enough, the antidote only changed the direction of my anxiety rather than halting it. (I later discovered that the antidote was generally effective, but that I had taken too small a dose to terminate the experience. This incident convinced me of the necessity for a trained guide to be in attendance at morning-glory seed sessions as well as those involving LSD.) I began to have visual impressions that reinforced my depressed state. I imagined seeing a politician promising that, "If I am elected, no man will have to live alone by day or sleep alone by night." I vowed that he would get my vote!
    I also imagined that a young girl had entered my apartment. I proceeded to dismember her body and devour it, limb by limb. My loneliness had taken the form of ravenous hunger. The thought of food made me nauseous as I knew that m y hunger could be satiated only by human contact. Devouring the girl, therefore, seemed to be the most appropriate action under the circumstances.
    Suddenly I found myself at the bottom of a black pit, clawing at the sides, attempting to escape. Leering into the pit was Satan, an evil-looking creature with the head of a demon and the body of a spider. He was sneering at me and uttering the words "Alone! Alone! Alone!" The words echoed throughout the pit like a curse, an affliction from which I could not escape.
    As I tried in vain to climb the walls of the pit, I noticed that it was completely devoid of color. The bottom and sides were black and slimy, the smell was foul and rotten. There was no one with whom to share my plight; I was alone in the pit. I sensed that hell, after all, is lack of contact with other people. I had always believed that we love God by loving our fellowman. Having nobody to love, therefore, cuts us off from God and throws us into hell.
    One unusual characteristic of the psychedelic experience is the number of levels on which one can operate. It is just as if one is actor and audience at the same time. While I was in the pit, one part of me was in deep emotional turmoil and agony. Another part of me, however, was calm, cool and analytical. I could analyze my experience and recognize its meaning at the same time that I was living through it. On the intellectual plane, I made the decision to halt the agony I was feeling on the emotional plane. Perhaps I could vomit and stop the undigested portion of the seeds from exerting any further effects upon my already tortured body.
    I staggered to the bathroom and attempted to vomit for half an hour. My attempts were unsuccessful. I was stuck with the experience whether I liked it or not.
    Crawling back to the bed, I paused to rest upon an air mattress on one side of the room. A few days before, a guest had visited me at the university. Giving him my bed, I had used the air mattress and had never bothered to deflate it.
    Once on the air mattress, I had the impression that I was on a life raft. My green and blue carpet became a raging sea. I grabbed the sides of the air mattress, afraid of what would happen if I fell into the ocean.
    The sensations of desertion, loss and loneliness came back stronger than ever. I was still ravenously hungry and chewed the edge of the rubber air mattress. I chewed the collar of my pajamas. I chewed my own arm but nothing satisfied me.
    I lay on my back and had the impression that I had turned into a bloated elephant. I could think of nothing less attractive as an object of affection, yet I still craved love. I yearned to be captured, raped and ravished by the first person who found me. Age, sex or appearance no longer mattered. I was so hungry for human contact that I would have settled for anyone with a warm body.
    My thoughts took a more active turn. Why not make a long-distance phone call to one of my friends? The sound of a human voice would assure me that I was not the only person left in the world.
    Opening my eyes, I found that I was facing the bookcase. The first book that I perceived was the Bible. I seized it and flung it open. Strangely, the smoothness of the pages felt like human skin. I felt, kissed and caressed the pages. For the first time in several hours I found some degree of tranquility.
    The pangs of hunger were still present but now I felt they could be abated by food. I ate some chocolate cookies and found them satisfying. I again placed my band on the Bible and had the impression that the passage I had turned to might contain some special meaning for me.
    Once more, I operated on two different levels. On one level, I was convinced that the biblical words would be important and illuminating. On another level, I realized that in my highly imaginative state I could twist just about any passage to suit my purposes. Nevertheless, I turned on a lamp and found a big chocolate smudge (from the cookie) directly above Ezekiel 11:24-25. The words described my liberation from the more terrifying aspects of the psychedelic experience as well as the importance of communicating my experience to others.

Then the vision that I had seen went up from me.
And I told the exiles all the things that the Lord had showed me.

    As I read on, I found a new interpretation for the twelfth chapter of Ezekiel. The prophet speaks of a "rebellious house" and people who are, perhaps, in need of psychedelic substances, as they have "ears to hear and hear not." The injunction to "go forth yourself" could apply to psychedelic researchers, who carried forth their pioneering efforts as missionaries, beset by criticism and ridicule from the more conservative, but established and powerful, forces in government, universities, social sciences and the press.
    The injunction of Ezekiel 12:13 is to "eat your bread with quaking, and drink water with trembling," an appropriate description of the consumption of psychedelic materials. Ezekiel 12:23-24 states that "the days are at band and the fulfillment of every vision. For there shall be no more any false vision of flattering divination within the house of Israel." Under the spell of the morning-glory seeds, everything I read became directed toward the psychedelic process.
    It was 5:00 A.M., a rather inappropriate time for a personal chat, and I decided not to place my phone calls. Why should I rouse my friends and make them suffer because of my own misery? I decided that I would renounce personal selfishness and make a sacrifice in the tradition of the prophets. I staggered wearily into bed.
    Although at peace with myself and the world, I was still unable to sleep. Again I saw a series of pleasant visions. I saw Alain Delon and Romy Schneider making love. The scene shifted to London, where I saw Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, nude, beautiful and making love. The scene again shifted, this time to New England, where my friends Bruce and Olga were honeymooning, making love. The three great love matches of the year, I concluded.
    Although I was tempted to spend the morning in bed, I realized that I had professional responsibilities at the university. It took me an hour to dress, an hour to prepare breakfast, and thirty minutes to walk the three blocks to my office. The morning's first appointment was with a six-year-old child. I was confident that he would not notice my deranged state, and I began to administer the Holtzman Inkblots to him.
    Upon presenting him a card and asking him what it resembled, I noticed that I was seeing designs of my own on the back of the card. These designs were intricate white snowflakes, scattered upon the white background of the card. Upon glancing at the inkblots, I noticed details I had never perceived before. Indeed, many of the inkblots appeared to have a life of their own, to be composed of tiny, living organisms which kept moving about the card. Perhaps the session would have been more fruitful had I recorded my own associations to the inkblots rather than my client's!
    Somehow, I staggered through the day. I was extremely tired, yet noticed color and beauty where I had never seen it before. People I came in contact with had a warm, inner glow. The red necklace of my assistant took on a luminous sparkle. My secretary's voice was like a musical instrument in its sweetness. The grass, bushes, and trees outside my window glistened with a strange beauty.
    By the next morning, I was entirely free of the psychedelic effects. For better or for worse, I had returned to the everyday world. However, I greeted the situation with regret as well as relief. For I had, under the influence of the Heavenly Blue Morning Glory, discovered something about myself and my situation that could not help but make me more appreciative of the loneliness, depression and anxiety faced by all mankind as a part of the inevitable human condition. It also taught me that there are many roads to strength and wisdom, not all of them pleasant. If we desire self-knowledge, however, we must be prepared for our hells as well as our heavens.

* R. E. Schultes, "Hallucinogenic Plants of the New World," Harvard Review, Summer 1963. (back to text)

    Chapter 4

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