These were some of my favorite passages and takeaways from this very interesting book.
Psychedelics might best be defined as physically non-addictive compounds which temporarily alter the state of one’s consciousness.
In me, it produces a dreamy peacefulness, with no rough edges of worry, stress or concern. But there is also a loss of motivation, of alertness, and of the urge to get things done.
They can provide access to the parts of us which have answers. They can, but again, they need not and probably will not, unless that is the purpose for which they are being used.
It is up to you to use these tools well, and in the right way. A psychedelic drug might be compared to television. It can be very revealing, very instructive, and–with thoughtful care in the selection of channels–the means by which extraordinary insights can be achieved. But to many people, psychedelic drugs are simply another form of entertainment; nothing profound is looked for, thus–usually–nothing profound is experienced.
Then, there is the need to explore the world that lies just beyond the immediate limits of our senses and our understanding; that, too, has been with mankind from the first.
Why has peyote, for instance, which has served for centuries as a means by which a person may open his soul to an experience of God, been classified by our government as a Schedule I material, along with heroin and PCP? Is this kind of legal condemnation the result of ignorance, pressure from organized religion, or a growing urge to force conformity upon the population? Part of the answer may lie in an increasing trend in our culture towards both paternalism and provincialism.
Paternalism is the name for a system in which the authorities supply our needs, and–in exchange–are allowed to dictate our conduct, both public and private. Provincialism is narrowness of outlook, social unification by the acceptance of a single code of ethics, the limiting of interests and forms of experience to those already established as traditional.
consciousness-opening plants and drugs has the major part of its origin in racial intolerance and the accumulation of political power. In the latter part of the last century, once the Intercontinental Railway had been built and the Chinese laborers were no longer needed, they were increasingly portrayed as subhuman and uncivilized; they were yellow-skinned, slant-eyed, dangerous aliens who frequented opium dens.
The Sabbath is the principal day for our preaching services and if the Indians are first made drunk on mescal (peyote) they cannot then be benefited by the gospel.”
In the 1930’s, there was an effort to deport Mexican laborers from southern agricultural states, and racial prejudice was again deliberately encouraged, with the Mexicans being described as lazy, dirty, and users of that dangerous stuff called marijuana. The intolerance of black people in the United States was aided and abetted by stories of marijuana and heroin use among black musicians. It should be noted that nobody remarked on such drug use by black people until their new music, which they called jazz, began to attract the attention of whites– at first only white nightclub patrons–and there began the first stirrings of awareness of the indignities and injustices being suffered by black Americans.
The 1960’s, of course, delivered a powerful blow to the psychedelics. These drugs were being used as part and parcel of a massive rebellion against governmental authority and what was believed to be an immoral and unnecessary war in Vietnam. Also, there were too many loud and authoritative voices claiming that there was a need for a new kind of spirituality, and urging the use of psychedelics to make direct contact with one’s God, without the intervention of priest, minister or rabbi.
But many things have not been decided. Subtleties of personality, belief systems, countless other characteristics, are not established at birth. In the eyes of every newborn, there is a universality of innocence and godliness which changes gradually as interactions take place with parents, siblings and the environment. The adult product is shaped from repeated contacts with pains and pleasures, and what finally emerges is the fatalist, the egocentric, or the rescuer. And the traveling companions of this person during his development from undefined infant to well-defined adult, all have contributed to and have been, in turn, modified by these interactions.
Although most of the compounds I investigate are created in the laboratory, and I seldom taste plants or fungi found in nature, there is still only one way to do it, a way that minimizes the risk, while maximizing the quality of the information obtained. I take the compound myself. I test its physical effects in my own body and I stay attentive to any mental effects which might be present. Before I elaborate on this old-fashioned method of discovering a new drug’s activity, let me explain how I feel about animal testing and why I no longer rely on it in my own research.
My usual starting point with a new drug is some 10 to 50 times less, by weight, than the known active level of its closest analog. If I have any doubts, I go down by a factor of 10 again. Some compounds that are closely related to previously assayed drugs of low potency have been started at the milligram level. But there are other compounds–those of an entirely new, unexplored class–which I may start nibbling at levels even below a microgram.
There is no completely safe procedure. Different lines of reasoning may lead to different predictions of a dosage level likely to be inactive in man. A prudent researcher begins his exploration at the lowest of these. However, there is always the question, “Yes, but what if–?” One can argue AFTER the fact that–in chemist’s jargon–the ethyl group increased the potency over the methyl group because of lipophilicity, or decreased the potency because of ineffective enzymatic demethylation. My decisions, therefore, have had to be a mixture of intuition and probabilities.
or Plus-four. This is a separate and very special category, in a class by itself. The four pluses do not imply in any way that it is more than, or comparable to, a plus-three. It is a serene and magical state which is largely independent of what drug is used–if any drug at all–and might be called a “peak experience,” in the terminology of the psychiatrist, Abe Maslow. It cannot be repeated at will with a repetition of the experiment. Plus-four is that one-of-a-kind, mystical or even religious experience which will never be forgotten. It tends to bring about a deep change of perspective or life-direction in the person who is graced with it.
It should be noted here that, over the course of these 15 years, no physical or mental damage has occurred to any member of the group as a result of drug experimentation. There have been a few times of mental and emotional distress, but the person has always recovered by the time the drug’s effects had dissipated.
The homes we use have garden space where any of us may go to spend time among plants in the fresh air. There are music tapes and art book s for whoever might wish to make use of them during the experience.
The researchers are used to treating disagreements or negative feelings the same way they would deal with them in group therapy–by exploring the reasons for the discomfort or anger or irritation. It has long been understood by all of them that exploration of the psychological and emotional effects of a psychoactive drug are, inevitably, synonymous with exploration of their individual psychological and emotional dynamics.
He must have impressed them somehow, because the school garden produced magnificent flowers and you took your life in your hands if you stepped on one of the plants that his students had cultivated and tended.
The terrifying aspect of it was the realization that I had to take responsibility for what happened to me. Before, it had always been my parents who fixed things, solved problems, and took care of me. As the ego-awareness (if that’s what it’s called) came about,I interacted less passively with other people.
I was a child prodigy. I never thought of myself in terms of intellect or intelligence, but I knew that my mother considered me quite advanced and more capable than the others in my age group. I could do this and that on the piano and the violin, and I wrote poetry. As I was growing up, the atmosphere around me always carried a certain expectation that I could do more and do it better.
There were too many older kids there at the school, so I made a marbles course of my own at home in my back yard. After putting a lot of work into it, I had a course superior to the one at school, and I became quite proficient.
The taste of the honeysuckle was a magical connection with this world where every leaf and insect was a friend and I was an intimate part of everything. Someone decided, one day, that the fence was just too rotten and that everything, old wood and old plants, had to be replaced with something new and clean and certainly safer. I was devastated. When I cried, no one understood why.
in a little box that he put on a shelf alongside his desk. I would always look in that box when I wanted to further the stamp exploring adventure, and it was always filled with marvels of strange faces and strange country names. I don’t think I said “Thank-you,” but I certainly added many new, unknown countries to my collection.
Gilbert Chemistry Set and it contained real chemicals such as bicarbonate of soda and dilute acetic acid, and unfathomable mysteries such as logwood. I haven’t, to this day, figured out what logwood is or what one is supposed to do with it. But I kept adding everything I could find to this collection. Stuff from the grocery store down the block, powders and liquids I found in garages and hardware stores. Things would fizz, and smell, and burn, and turn colors. I knew that if I could gather together enough different chemicals, every combination would be new, and would produce wonderful new results.
mathematics and, as I have already mentioned, music) which would flow with no work at all, but anything that required arbitrary and illogical organization (such as grammar and history and spelling) would defeat me, since they were unpredictable and capricious.
I found myself a student in a social system which was completely alien to me. Everything was measured on the basis of who your family was, where you’d taken your preparatory studies, and just how much money your family had.
I discovered the remarkable world of psychopharmacology and, most important of all, the power of the mind over the body.
and that the administering of a little bit of a chemical that came from some poppy flowers somewhere, could make it all quite unimportant. This is what is meant by central analgesia. The pain is not deadened; it is still there. The site of action is not the thumb but, rather, the brain. The problem is simply no longer of concern. Morphine is a pretty remarkable drug.
Then came a big monster of an ambulance which took me from Liverpool to Watertown and delivered me to a white-coated Army staff. A young nurse volunteered to make me comfortable with a glass of orange juice, to relieve my thirst, but at the bottom of the orange juice I saw an unmistakable layer of undissolved white crystalline solids. I wasn’t going to be hoodwinked by a bunch of soldiers! The juice was obviously a sophisticated cover-up for the administration of some dramatic sedative or presurgical anesthetic which was expected to render me placid and unconcerned about the medical procedures they had planned for me.
The first was simple and not exactly surprising: there was no communication between the Army and the Navy, which meant that the pay chaos which I had instituted by the addition of a small integer was safely lost in the shuffle. The second fact was not expected at all, and it was this that started me on my career as a psychopharmacologist. I was told that the white “drug” which was undissolved at the bottom of my orange juice glass, and which had finally plopped me over the line from being an alert and defensive surgery candidate to being a comatose subject available to any and all manipulation by the operating physician, was nothing but undissolved sugar.
A fraction of a gram of sugar had rendered me unconscious, because I had truly believed that it could do just that. The power of a simple placebo to radically alter my state of consciousness impressed me deeply. The contribution of the mind to the observed action of a drug was certainly real, and I decided it was possible that this contribution was a major one.
They might be drugs that alter the states of consciousness (such as sugar when it is believed to be not-sugar), or they might be states of transcendence reached in meditation. They might be moments of orgasm, or fugue states, or day-dreams that take you momentarily to a rewarding fantasy and escape from responsibility. All of these are treasures of the spirit or psyche that allow exploration along paths which are undefined and completely individual.
During this 1940-1950 period, there was almost no attention being given to the alkaloid, mescaline. In fact, the entire family of compounds of which mescaline is a part was virtually unknown. A few articles had appeared which talked about the “mescaline psychosis,” and several publications had been widely circulated decrying the evils of Peyote as made evident by the ruin which had befallen the “simple” American Indians.
It had a marvel of color that was, for me, without precedent, for I had never particularly noticed the world of color. The rainbow had always provided me with all the hues I could respond to. Here, suddenly, I had hundreds of nuances of color which were new to me, and which I have never, even today, forgotten. This world was also marvelous in its detail. I could see the intimate structure of a bee putting something into a sack on its hind leg to take to its hive, yet I was completely at peace with the bee’s closeness to my face.
saw it as I had when I was a child. I had forgotten the beauty and the magic and the knowingness of it and me. I was in familiar territory, a space wherein I had once roamed as an immortal explorer, and I was recalling
everything that had been authentically known to me then, and which I had abandoned, then forgotten, with my coming of age. Like the touchstone that recalls a dream to sudden presence, this experience reaffirmed a miracle of excitement that I had known in my childhood but had been pressured to forget.
I understood that our entire universe is contained in the mind and the spirit. We may choose not to find access to it, we may even deny its existence, but it is indeed there inside us, and there are chemicals that can catalyze its availability.
It is now a matter of history that I decided to devote whatever energies and skills I might possess to unraveling the nature of these tools for self-exposure. It has been said that wisdom is the ability to understand others; it is the understanding of yourself that is enlightenment.
I was offered, and accepted, a position as a chemist with Dole Chemical Company, and within the first couple of years I made the powers that be very happy by predicting the structure of, and synthesizing, an insecticide that actually went into commercial production. In return for this they granted me freedom to research and develop anything I wished. This is the ultimate reward for any chemist.
Not wishing to set up cobwebs, I chose the fish route, and sent off to Van Waters and Rogers for several big battery jars, to the local pet store for a supply of fighting fish, and to the Swiss pharmaceutical house, Sandoz, for a gram of LSD. Everything arrived promptly, and along with it all came my dear friend Burt from the analytical department. He was a careful and most conservative gentleman, but he was also the most naturally curious person in the whole building.
building. It was a completely joyful day for Burt. Every trivial thing had a magical quality. The stainless steel Pfaudler reactors were giant ripe melons about to be harvested; the brightly colored steam and chemical pipes were avant-garde spaghetti with appropriate smells, and the engineers wandering about were chefs preparing a royal banquet. No threats anywhere, simply hilarious entertainment. We wandered everywhere else on the grounds, but the theme of food and its sensory rewards continued to be the leitmotif of the day.
These periods of talkativeness alternated with periods of reverie and ceiling-staring. Sam’s over-all conclusion was that the drug was not completely pleasant, as it allowed him too intimate a view of himself.
About a month later, I took 225 milligrams of TMA, having already taken 50 milligrams of Marezine (an anti- nausea drug) one hour earlier. This drug mixture is a process that I have long since abandoned. If nausea is to be part of the drug’s effect, then let it be experienced and assigned. And when one is exploring a new drug, why complicate any observations by superimposing a second drug? Drug-drug interactions are a complex study unto themselves.
This was an immensely important learning experience for me. My earlier mescaline experiment had been full of beauty and light, and I had rejoiced that this was what my soul contained, deep within, that this sensitivity and compassion was what had been brought to the surface by that simple catalyst. Yet here was a substantially identical molecule that produced something, at least in me, quite opposite. It was only after a great deal of introspection that I realized that mescaline no more produced beauty than TMA produced anger. Just as the beauty was always within me, so was the anger.
Different drugs may sometimes open different doors in a person, but all of those doors lead out of the same unconscious.
So, for the rest of the way across the Atlantic Ocean, I reviewed, with what modest photographic recall I could muster, the appropriate texts of Beilstein and Chemical Abstracts, and put together a chemical flow-sheet and proposal for the phenethylamine analogues of THC. It was mailed from London and got to A.R.L. Company apparently in time for the contract proposal to be awarded to them. It must have been somewhat successful in showing CNS activity, since Dr. Pearsman left A.R.L. and became the founder of a consulting group in Boston that promoted nitrogen-containing THC analogs to industry, apparently with some success.
MMDA was a truly fascinating compound. It did not have the bells and whistles, the drama of mescaline, but was considerably more benign. It was (I thought at the time) my first truly new discovery, and I moved very carefully with it into my small group of colleagues. The most moving description of its effects was made by a very close friend of mine, a poet who took approximately 160 milligrams orally, in a group of several friends, and he sent me this report. MMDA / Miniature High I use the word miniature in the same sense that I would describe a piece by the jazz pianist Bud Powell as a miniature.
Rather than a cessation of time as there is with mescaline or psilocybin, there is a kind of timelessness during the first malaise-like hour of the high. There is more a feeling of stupefaction than there is with most highs.
walked to a redwood copse where other members of the party were sitting. I was struck by the absolute and superb beauty and clarity of the people and the trees and air and the music that played over the portable radio. I felt close to the children and admired their beauty. At this point I realized that I was simply sitting and enjoying a Sunday noon in its full pleasantness.
No one could deny that I was extremely productive. A continuous flow of new and potentially patentable compounds were being synthesized and spun into the biological screening processes. These were the intermediates which were the stepping stones to the target materials that I really wanted to make and explore. But the final products themselves, compounds that briefly modified the sensory world of the consumer and perhaps his interpretation of it, were unmarketable.
From my point of view, it was becoming increasingly clear that the corporate attitudes toward my work were shifting from encouragement to tolerance, which would in time–I suspected–become disapproval and eventually, of course, outright prohibition.
But when I finally talked with this person, I discovered that his role was only that of a finder–what is now known as a “head-hunter”. He told me that he had been retained by a big government operation specifically to locate scientists from many disciplines as potential members of a research team for an unusual project that was of super-importance.
He emphasized that I would have a free hand to establish instrumentation, choose personnel, and equip my own laboratory. Would I be interested in setting up a research project to develop such chemicals and describe their activity and maybe even to contribute to the design of the clinical experiments? Does a bear like to shit in the woods? Yes, yes, most certainly yes!
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I left with questions that are yet to be answered, and most probably never will be. Was my Captain Pinkerton a recruiter of scientific minds for what he saw as patriotic necessities? Was he a modern-day Machiavelli with some personal agenda that he chose not to share with anyone? Maybe he was simply a selfish collector of interesting and colorful people, like the art lover who has five original Van Gogh’s in his personal gallery, where no one else can see them.
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My friend the psychologist, Terry Major (also familiar with TMA), assayed MEM at 20 milligrams, and reported the chronology as peaking somewhere around the third hour, and out at about the eighth hour. The qualitative effects, he said, were along the psychedelic line (color, visual intensity, wavering of the visual field, emotional euphoria), but that he was also aware of slight but real extra-pyramidal tremors.
From late 1977 to mid-1980, I did eleven experiments with MEM with a total of nine members of my research group (usually in threes and fours), all in the 25 to 50 milligram range. In general, we found that there was always some body discomfort, extreme anorexia (loss of appetite) and frequent reports of color enrichment and eyes-closed fantasy. The material insists on being complex, but seems nonetheless to leave you in charge. In general, the effects drop off between the sixth and tenth hour, but sleep–even some hours later–can include disturbing dreams. It was not too restful for a number of the experimenters.
Of course, Miriam did not have cancer of the stomach. She also had no residual leg paralysis. What she emerged with was an understanding of how the repressed grief and guilt had planted itself in her own body, giving symptoms which were signals to her of something dark which needed to be exposed and opened up to consciousness before she did, indeed, succeed in giving herself her mother’s cancer. When we talked again, several days later, she told me–almost casually–that she had thrown away the Dilaudid. I could only say a heartfelt thank you. I had developed a keen respect for MEM.
(Theo’s interests in chemistry have largely flagged and he has found his metier in marine biology and superb poetry, with a garden full of lovingly tended chrysanthemums and dahlias affording him hours of peaceful contact with the earth and his own inner being.)
My friend, Terry, evaluated 2.3 milligrams. and reported an extraordinary mood elevation, with no indication of any nausea whatsoever. In the third hour, he found a pronounced enhancement of odors and of emotional interactions, with a richness of empathy. At the eighth hour there was an unmistakable decline, and a 3/ 4 grain of seconal was needed for sleep at the tenth hour. He did a later experiment with 3.8 milligrams and reported that it showed its maximum effect at the fifth hour, with a peaking from there to the eighth hour, and a gradual decline on into the 12th hour. This was the first clear portrayal of the very long time course that this drug shows.
We left the institute and drove on into the center of the city, and the next thing I knew, we were pulling up in front of a two-storey building in downtown Stockholm. A guard ran out to the car, opened the door for us, and let us into the building that was surely a block by a block in size. A little while later it all became clear. I had just been given a midnight tour of the Swedish equivalent of the FBI laboratories. My host was Peter Mille, the head of the Narcotics Lab in Stockholm, and what he had called “my own little lab” was the state Big Thing!
had never seen so many instruments, so much equipment, so many reference samples and such a professional dedication to excellence. There were instruments which would document indentations from scratch pads, and which could lift fingerprints from Styrofoam cups.
I had not, so he began painting a picture of a rather fascinating group, with many interests in all areas of art, drama and music. He mentioned that there was a need for a viola in their symphonic orchestra, and would I want to sit in for a couple of evenings (they met once a week for a little bit of rehearsal, a lot of talk, and too much gourmet food and wine) to see if I liked them and they liked me. It sounded like quite an adventure, so I readily said yes.
When I asked who was proposing to pay for this venture, my visitors said that it was a group of businessmen. They didn’t volunteer names, and I didn’t ask for any, since I wouldn’t have recognized them anyway. I didn’t have much information about the world of business. But I did have instincts, and they were telling me that there was something not exactly kosher about either the young men or their proposal.
“I am Doctor Paul Freye, he said, extending his hand. “And I am the head of the Narcotics Lab here in the Bay Area. I very much appreciated your contributions to today’s hearings, and I’m very glad to meet you.” I said hello and shook his hand. I felt an immediate liking for him. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers, and agreed to meet again in the near future. I had no way of guessing that he would become one of my closest and most valued friends over the years to come, and that we would share many delightful hours in my laboratory, where he would occasionally come on a weekend to “get his hands wet,” with the chemical manipulations that continually fascinated him.
I had presented my paper on nutmeg and was wandering around the lobby outside where the real action was taking place, and a friend introduced me to a young professor of chemistry, Noel Chestnut, who expressed a general dissatisfaction with everything he had heard so far, except for one paper on essential oils and their conversion to amphetamine derivatives. He said he would like to meet the author. I said, “I am the author,” and thus began a friendship which has lasted to this day.
And one of the principal neurotransmitters in the human, serotonin, is an indole. This all just might have value in the area of mental health, which could lead to new grant applications and grant awards, and thence to the funding of graduate students and post-doctorate scholars doing marvelous metabolic studies. A young chemist who had graduated from a large university in the Midwest came to San Francisco to take a post-doctoral position with Noel at about this time. His name was Dr. David Ladder, and when we met, flint was struck and fire found. My relationship with David developed into a productive union which still exists today. He is a shy, gentle, brilliant chemist, and we have published countless papers together and will, I hope, continue doing so in the future.
It was now an hour into the experiment, and still no acknowledgment of any activity from the MDMA. Then, came the unexpected question, the “off the wall” question. “Is it all right to be alive?” “You bet your sweet ass it’s all right be be alive! It’s a grace to be alive!” That was it. She plunged into the MDMA state, and started running down the hill, calling out that it was all right to be alive. All the greens became living greens and all the sticks and stones became vital sticks and stones. I caught up with her and her face was radiant. She told me some of her personal history which she knew well, and which I knew well, but with which she had never come to peace.
She had come into the world by an unexpected Caesarean section and her mother had died during the delivery. And for fifty years she had lived in the guilt of having had her life given her at the cost of her mother’s life. She had been in therapy with her family physician for about three years, largely addressing this problem, and apparently what she needed was the acknowledgment that it was all right to be alive.
I didn’t hear from her for a couple of months. When she did call, she volunteered that she still felt very much at peace, and had discontinued her therapy. In most of my own early experimental trials, I concentrated on the area of 80 to 100 milligrams, and I used the word, “window,” in my notes to describe the effects. It enabled me to see out, and to see my own insides, without distortion or reservations.
service, I asked an old friend of his whether she had a guess as to the number of people Adam had introduced to this incredible tool, either directly or indirectly. She was silent for a moment, then said, “Well, I’ve thought about that, and I think probably somewhere around four thou sand, give or take a few.”
It has proven to be such a valuable psychotherapeutic adjunct, I truly believe it will persevere in therapeutic use for a long time to come, despite the structuring of the law that has come about in many countries to prohibit its use and discourage its study. As one psychiatrist put it, “MDMA is penicillin for the soul, and you don’t give up penicillin, once you’ve seen what it can do.”
This was at 8:15PM, and what followed was simply incredible. By 8:28 PM (thirteen minutes had elapsed), I was aware of the first indications of marijuana effect, which was, for me, about the expected time. This first alert was followed by a sequence of waves of sensation, each wave bringing with it an increased slowing of time. It was uncanny, how these seemed to be evenly and regularly spaced, but as I looked at the clock’s second hand, I noted that the waves must have been getting closer and closer together. Actually, this impression was due to the fact that the second hand was moving ever more slowly, rather than that the waves were different in their spacing. My note, written at 8:31PM, stated that there was considerable subjective time passage, out of proportion to the clock’s activity, but that the music on the radio had no pitch distortion at all.
I knew that made very little sense, but Ruth assured me that George was on his way, and I decided to stay on the phone and use her voice as an anchor in this strange storm. I had never before been involved in a conversation that lasted for a century.
Had I intended to type something? Calculate something? Read something? The world around me was colorful and moving,but- enjoyable as visual synthesis might be -I didn’t want to let it take over. I had to stay in verbal contact. Which reminded me that the phone was off the hook and Ruth was at the other end, waiting. I had completely forgotten her, and hoped that she had waited for me. I made it back, and she was still there. “Sorry to be so long. I got distracted.” “How long do you think you were away?” “Twenty, thirty minutes?” “You were gone one minute, or a few seconds more than a minute.” So the factor was about 20 to 1between the clocks. I knew that there
The best explanation of that Aleph experience are my notes, written in real time (during the experience) which speak for themselves. Interestingly, as to level of effect, the experiment ranked about a plus two (the character of the effect can be defined, but it does not have an intensity that interferes with speech and function), from the sensory and physical point of view. From the mental point of view, it was certainly a full plus three. It was extraordinary because of the strength and persistence of the many concepts which paraded past me as a sequence of distinct entities.
Looking is like a tale of power; to go through is the act of power. And suddenly a new dimension of doors, each unexplored.
In this way the SCH3 becomes the SR [the SCH3 a methylthio group, is a clump of atoms found on the 4- position of Aleph-1. The “R” in SR symbolizes any of an infinity of other clumps that can be located there other than the CH3 such as ethyl, propyl, etc.]. It was lucky that the first door, SCH3, was the revealer of the fact that there was an infinity of additional doors that might otherwise live to blush unseen. [Mixed metaphors are not uncommon in notes I have written under the influence.] I am being inundated with “concepts” which are coming too rapidly to write down. This is not a verbal material, ergo, tales cannot be told.
This is a truly conceptually exploding experience. How can one ever hope to record this kind of intellectual supernova? If I were a historian I could be busy for life, writing down these scattered-about concepts, but that would be to no avail, as they would only be tales, and who would read them and who would believe them?
But imaginative expansion must be a private act.
The individual experiences range widely from extraordinary imagery, to childhood events reliving, to hibernation, to intense intellectual confusion. Different things for different people.
I felt, at times, the kind of despair that threatened a permanent darkness inside me, a grey Hell in which nothing moved, or would ever move. At other times, a surge of something came over me which I felt as liberation; it told me I was free to discover, to form new purpose, to live among the living. I didn’t know which was true, which could- or should- be my reality, and for a while it didn’t matter what I thought, because I had to experience whatever imposed itself on me and, in between, get up in the morning, put my clothes on and trudge to the end of Borodin Road for the Chronicle, pay the bills, eat some food, and go to sleep. I drank a lot of wine in the evenings.
I could not foresee that I would find an answer some two weeks later, on the other side of the country. Six months before, I had fallen deeply in love- for the first time in my life- with Ursula, the wife of Dolph Biehls, of whom I was very fond, and who considered me one of his best friends. While they had been studying with my friend Terry, for almost a year, I had found myself responding to the gentle, soulful affection that Ursula had shown me from the beginning of our friendship. When I had tried to express my confusion of feelings, perhaps hoping that she would snap me out of it with a sharp, unmistakeble rejection, her response was, instead, one of passion and frank expression of desire.
I knew my wife very well, and I know that she never suspected any of this. Helen and I had lived together for 30 years, and our relationship had become a comfortable, uninspired, non-confrontational acceptance of mutual disappointment, not unlike most of the marriages we saw around us. She had been supportive of everything I had wanted to do, including changes in career which might well have daunted a less courageous wife, and I was grateful for this attitude and for what I felt was her belief in my ability to succeed. But we had not shared excitement.
“Learn to Fly- First Lesson Free.” I turned in on impulse and accepted the lesson. Within a few weeks I had soloed and done stuff like cross-country navigating and cross-wind landing. But I also learned to say little or nothing to Helen about my progress, or about the extreme pleasure I experienced in the little training plane. She was terribly afraid of the possibility of accidental death or injury. Even going out for a day’s sail on our little 20- foot sailboat was a strain on her, and after a while, she would beg off from sailing with Thea and me. I did not try to persuade her, knowing full well the phobias she lived with.
It seemed very important that I was standing at the interface between two states. I was here, and Arkansas was over there, and between us, surprisingly far below me, flowed the river.
The hours that followed proved to be a time of concepts, revelations, compelling fantasy and authentic memory that was very frightening and yet, in retrospect, of extraordinary value. What I faced, over those three or four hours, were some impressive angels and demons, and I asked questions and experienced insights that went to the roots of my psyche. My notes begin with the number of hours since ingestion of the little vial’s contents. And my retrospectives follow each of these directly.
And when I looked back at the outside painting a moment later, it was still the same artist’s style but the girl had been relocated. It was my hostess Marlene with a sprinkling can, watering flowers in the garden below. But she was frozen, from scene to scene, each different, each without life or motion. I could see the brush strokes, and the entire image was done on a flat canvas with cool and friendly colors. A 17th century lady (whose name was Marlene) with a tight-fitting head-scarf was standing over a geranium with a watering pot, obviously watering it, being watched through the window by me, and she and the window were both part of the painting. If things were moving, it was in somebody else’s time.
Why, I thought, did he sometimes threaten me with with his belt? I don’t think he ever actually did spank me, but he might as well have; the scars are right there to be seen.
the walls of my room became, very gradually, less active and more solid. I began hearing voices downstairs; people were putting dinner together. I inspected my body and I seemed to be all right.
And I had made another decision, perhaps the most important of all. I would not cut myself off from the richest resource I had. I would stay with people, work with people, and learn from people. Mine was a world of exploration of new chemicals, and I could not be the only crucible. I thought, others will see things differently from me, and I must acknowledge their views as being equal in value to my own. I cannot, just by personal experience, satisfactorily define a drug.
The definition of a drug’s action can only come from a consensus amongst the users of that drug, and the larger the number of people contributing to that definition, the closer it will be to the truth. Needless to say, there were no more experiments in Tennessee.
Simultaneously, I was expanding. I was expanding to the edges of the universe, at the same tremendous speed as that of the shrinking, and the combination, the contraction-expansion, was not only an image, it was also a sensation the whole of me recognized and welcomed. This experience of myself as microcosm-macrocosm lasted exactly four minutes.
Now I was at the edge of an unseen cliff, looking out into a very different blackness, the deep, cradling blackness of the infinite universe,of space which stretched without end. I was completely happy and comfortable in that place, and would have stayed there indefinitely, had I been allowed, breathing in the beautiful darkness and the exquisitely familiar sense of infinity as a living presence, surrounding me, intimate and warm.
After a moment of this pleasure, came the greeting. From the upper left-hand corner of the universe there came a greeting from Something which had known me, and which I had known, since before time and space began. There were no words, but the message was clear and smiling: Hello, dear friend, I salute you with respect-humor- love. It is a pleasure with-laughter-joy to encounter you again.
That which greeted me was an entity so far removed from anything in human experience that I concluded, when I was an adult, trying to find a way to describe it to myself, that even the word, “entity,” could not be applied; a word creates boundaries, it says this is the shape of what you are describing, as different from other shapes which are bounded by other words. It had no shape, no form, no definition, no boundaries. It was. It is. It was my oldest friend and it greeted me as its equal. I always replied to it with a rush of love and delight and my own laughter.
“Yes, exactly,” and continued to the end. His end was not mine; his journey came to a close after the black and white curdles. I thought, with a touch of pity, that he seemed to have missed the best part, although he did have the wonderful spiral at the beginning. I was glad I hadn’t prompted him further. When he’d finished his story, I told him I’d had every one of the images he had described, and that he was the first person I’d ever met who shared the experience. I said nothing about my own different ending.
It happened -my beloved Spiral- for the last time when I was twenty-five. I had no way of knowing, of course, that it would not come again. It may or may not have been a coincidence that, within three weeks of the last time, I had my first encounter with a psychedelic material, the Divine Cactus, peyote.
did a lot of reading in those days, since I was living alone and books were, as they had always been, among my best friends. They kept me company and fed me with richness at a time when the rest of my life was dry, anxious and slightly grey. I was in my mid-twenties.
“We won’t be spending much time inside,” said Sam, “Maybe we can walk down to the park, once you’ve got your sea-legs. It’s always best to be outside, in natural surroundings, during this kind of experience.”
with lumps, and placed it carefully on the table. I muttered, “Good grief, that looks awful. Is it the peyote?” “Yup, it’s mashed peyote buttons. We’ll mix it with the orange juice; that may help the taste a bit.” “Does it taste as horrendous as it looks?” “Oh, much worse,” said Sam, cheerfully, sitting down beside me, “It’s probably the vilest taste in the whole world!”
unusual for Sam; he was, in some ways, quite shy. “May the Gods bless us,” he said. I was both surprised and touched. It was not a typical Sam thing to say. I took a small amount of the mixture into my mouth and immediately spat it back into the glass. “My God, Sam! That’s AWFUL!” “Yeah, it is, isn’t it,” he agreed, proudly. I watched him. He kept taking swallows, his face scrunched up, eyes closed, while I looked at the dreadful mixture in my hand and thought, how will I ever get this down? The taste was not just bitter; the moment it hit the tongue, the gorge rose in response. It was as if the body had decided instantly that this was something not intended for human consumption and was ready to resist its passage down the throat any and every way it could.
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I broke the silence with something else I was seeing, “I just realized, Sam; you really are the outsider, aren’t you? And that’s the way you want it; you like being the strange one.” I was childishly pleased with myself, for perceiving so much, so well. Sam’s eyes opened; they were brown, and they looked straight at mine, without any shyness at all. He asked, “What are you seeing?” “I’m seeing a fascinating combination of things that show especially in your mouth, and it just came to me- I don’t know why- that you’ve chosen to stay outside the usual,you know, medical fraternity. The doctor club. It isn’t so much that they don’t understand you, make friends with you; you don’t want to be accepted,
“And time -,” I added, “Time isn’t moving in the usual way.” I sat for a while just gazing, then said, ‘The light in the room out there is simply beautiful. There are little dust motes floating in the air and I think they’re singing songs.”
Sam said nothing, but the silence in the room was perfectly comfort able. I thought about how comfortable the silence was, and how I wouldn’t mind if it went on forever, and that I wouldn’t mind if it were broken, either. There simply was no tension anywhere, no anxiety. Just the radiance and utter peacefulness. I said, “My insides are smiling. And I have the impression that all is well with the world. At least, all’s well right here, in this corner of it.” “Good,” said Sam briskly, swinging his feet to the floor, “We’ll be taking a look at the rest of it pretty soon.” “Oh, Lord. You mean, outside? Do you think it’s safe to do that?” Sam turned around, “Safe? Why wouldn’t it be safe?” He’s wondering if maybe I’m not feeling all right.
“Okay.” I stood up, observing that my body felt light and very strong. I was aware of some kind of energy moving through me, without any specific tingling or sensitivity anywhere. I snapped on the bathroom light and looked in the mirror. The face I saw was myself at 18 or 19, when I had resembled the actress Ingri Bergman closely enough to be mistaken for her by strangers, a few times -to my great delight- and had not yet earned the lines in the forehead and around the mouth. The eyes were grey-blue, the pupils huge. There was something really likeable about that face, I decided,and there were no traces of anger or bitterness, where usually there were faint signs around mouth and eyes that said,
Now there was only kindness and humor and it really was a nice face to look at. I thought to myself, with a sense of having stumbled onto something important: this is a good human being; this person I’m looking at is to be treasured. All her faults and all her failures do not take away from the warmth and the ability to care and love that’s there. I saw the reflected eyes blur with the start of tears, and felt a burst of amusement at such sympathy for myself. I turned off the light and reported to Sam, “I look ten years younger. Is that usual?” “That often happens. It must have something to do with the relaxation, dropping the usual defenses and tensions. Anything else?” “Yes,” I thought about how to say it, “I liked the face I saw. I mean, I really liked that person in the mirror. I’m not exactly used to that. I suppose most people aren’t.”
“Okay, yes. Thanks.” I was looking around at the sidewalk, the buildings, the lamp-posts; everything seemed to emit a subtle light. We passed a tiny garden in which the low bushes seemed to present themselves, calling out for attention, for acknowledgment. I smiled at them and said Hi, under my breath. An elderly man in a worn coat was walking slowly ahead of us. As we moved past him, I glanced at his profile, trying to see inside. I could feel invisible walls and a dull, irritable tiredness, a readiness to be annoyed. I thought, if only it were possible to stop him and say something like, “Dear sir, just open your eyes and look around you; it’s an incredible world! Don’t close yourself off from all the life and beauty around you!”
own niceness and wisdom when a piece of information shoved itself at me and I suddenly knew that, first, the man needed his walls just exactly where they were, and didn’t want to be rescued from them. Second, that it was not my right, not anyone’s right, to tell him that there was another way to live, a better way to be, to urge him to see or hear what he didn’t choose to see or hear. It was his choice to live the way he was living, and I must not make the mistake of passing judgment on the conduct of a life I knew nothing about.
I remembered my mother telling me that there is a basic rule in spiritual matters: never offer what the other person hasn’t asked for. Her phrase was, “Wait until you get the question before you volunteer the answer.”
themselves? Most people hold onto the familiar. Who wants to actually risk having his universe changed? I do. Me. Sam was saying, “How about the park? It’s only a few blocks more.” “Yes, sure.” We were walking hand in hand, now. Every time I saw someone on the sidewalk or across the street, I would open myself to the feel of that other body’s movements, trying to be inside the person, to sense whether there was unhappiness or daydreaming or anticipation and pleasure. I found it easy to pick up the emotional field, and had to remind myself that there was no way to know whether what I believed I was perceiving had any relation to reality -the other’s reality.
After a few blocks, I realized I was walking with an easy, rhythmic stride which somehow matched everything around me. I was feeling completely in-tune, and everything I saw -a child running up a short stairway to the door of a house, a woman leaning out of a high window to shake a piece of cloth, a man in a leather jacket digging in the earth around a rose-bush -was music. In being who we were, in feeling what we felt, in moving as we moved, all of us were creating a silent music.
“My God! So that’s what atoms look like!” I turned my head and met the biggest Sam grin I had ever seen. He’s so pleased -this must be wonderful for him, too -seeing someone opening up to all this for the first time. I went back to my hand, watching the extraordinary energies bursting through and around the skin. Then I looked at the big oak tree, at all the other trees and their leaves, at the grass around us; everything, everywhere, was surging with this continuous movement.
Everything is energy, energy which assumes the shapes of grass blades and rabbits and human bodies and rocks, but we move around in a world which we’ve learned to see as stable, quiet, solid. Wonder at what age we begin to screen out this other reality level? Must be very early. “Care to share some thoughts?” I realized that Sam was being very considerate, wanting to know what was going on, yet determined not to intrude more than necessary. I felt a rush of warmth for this dear,stubborn, brilliant maverick, this so very odd man out, who had gone to a lot of trouble to open these doors for me. I looked into his eyes and said, “Thank you, Sam. Thank you very much for giving me this day.” He blinked, then rubbed his nose vigorously, mumbling that the day wasn’t over yet; there was still a long way to go. “Sam, there’s a thing I’ve got to tell you before I forget it, because it seems important.” “Okay– say on.” “You know that everything I’ve been experiencing is new and -well- every time I turn around, I see something I didn’t expect to see -?”
“The funny thing is that, despite all the newness, there’s something about all of it that feels- well, the only way I can put it is that it’s like coming home. As if there’s some part of me that already knows- knows this territory, — and it’s saying Oh yes, of course! Almost a kind of remembering –!” Sam was nodding, “That happened to me, too, the first time. A feeling of familiarity. I’m used to it, now. I mean, I’m used to the idea that somewhere in my soul I see this way all the time, but the conscious mind has learned to screen it out. Maybe it hasn’t the survival value that the ordinary way of seeing does.” “Why wouldn’t it have survival value?” “Well,” said Sam, getting to his feet and reaching down for my raincoat, “If you think about it, in this state a man-eating tiger could very well appear the epitome of beauty and enchantment, and a person might just stand there in awe and appreciation – right? -at the ruby-red tongue and the softly glowing ivory fangs- ‘Tiger, tiger, burning bright’ -and there goes one member of the human race, too busy being full of wonder to notice that he is about to become lunch.”
A knowing spread from the soles of my feet, up my legs and into the rest of me, that the earth I walked on was indeed a body, a living body, that it was a sentient thing, with a consciousness of a kind I could not yet comprehend, and that it truly was The Mother.
We were deep in Golden Gate Park, walking down the side of a road, not talking, just listening to the breathing of wet trees and other growing things, when just ahead of us there was a harsh screeching of car brakes, followed by the terrible, unmistakable sound of an animal injured unto death. We rounded a curve and stopped.
There arose in me then a certainty that all life on this planet is connected, all the time, at some unconscious level; that whatever is felt by a single living one of us is experienced, in some way I couldn’t define, by everything else that lives.
We walked in silence for a few moments, then Sam said, “I remember seeing a dead bird lying in the grass, once, in the middle of a peyote session. I stopped to look at it because I wanted to understand death, to know what it was, what it seemed like when I was seeing differently. I was looking down at the bird and it came to me that all the parts of the body were being dissolved back into the earth, some of them very fast, some of them slowly; it was all going to return, one way or another, to the earth, and that that’s the way it’s supposed to happen. The life that used to be in the bird belonged somewhere else, and it had gone there, and what was left, the physical part, was going back to where IT belonged. There was a rightness about it. Death was simply a moving from one state to another.”
Now — now I would have to take it all back, all that resentment, because I was beginning to understand. I stopped in the road and looked at Sam and looked past him, and around and up at the grey sky and knew that everything in the world was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing; that the universe was on course, and that there was a Mind some where that knew everything that happened because it was everything that happened, and that, whether I understood it with my intellect or not, all was well. I simply knew it and I knew that I would try to figure it out later, but that I had to absorb the truth of it now, standing on a wet road in Golden Gate Park with a patient, quiet friend who was waiting to see if there was anything I wanted to tell him.
I stood in front of a window full of tiny, darting fish and became all the little silver bodies at once. How is it I’m aware of being completely me — I can locate my Self,my center — yet, at the same time, I can scatter my consciousness into hundreds of fishes?
examined myself and felt my body humming again and knew that in the middle of my chest there was a radiant center of energy, and another one just above my navel, and that they were probably what the spiritual teachers of India call chakras. I couldn’t remember how many there were supposed to be, altogether; five or seven, maybe. I was certainly aware of two of them, anyway.
“Come and see this,” he said, and I looked over the wall, down a slope of grass to a mass of vivid spring flowers. I could feel his eyes on my face as I flinched and stepped back from the impact of red, orange and bright purple. The colors were physically painful to my eyes, unless I squinted. “I almost can’t look at them, Sam.” “They’re really quite a shock, aren’t they!” I averted my eyes, then tried looking again, amused and annoyed at the same time. I asked him if he knew why the colors hurt the eyes, and he explained about frequencies and certain parts of the color spectrum, and about the sensitivity of the eye when the pupil was enlarged, and I nodded and said Oh, I see, knowing I wouldn’t remember the explanations and that it was all right.
As I looked at his back, a few feet ahead, it occurred to me that I could reach out with my mind and actually touch him, and when I wondered how best to go about doing it, an image came of peeling layers of Sam away – like an onion- until I got to the core of him, and I would be able to touch that directly. I simply knew I could do it, and the idea seemed delightful and very funny. I began mentally peeling Sam’s layers, one by one, gently, as I followed him. After a while, I sensed a shining thing that had no shape, in the middle of his body, and I reached out with the will to touch, and poked it at the shining. Sam jumped in mid- step and turned, both hands spread against his back.
The orgasmic energy continued to flood me, body and mind. I noted that I was in complete control of what I said, what I did, and I couldn’t remember any time in my life when my thought processes had been sharper or
clearer. I had absolute trust in my own judgement. We walked on together, talking now and then, most of the time absorbed in our own thoughts, until we found ourselves emerging from the woods into a field which sloped up gently on three sides, forming a shallow bowl of wet grass and red-brown earth.
The orgasmic state was mellowing out, very gradually, to a level of energy flow less pressing, less intense than it had been before. I existed and moved in a field of light, and there was a steady flow, like a continuing note of music, underneath, that could only be called bliss -a connection with that aspect of the Great Mind, the Great Spirit, which was love and joy and laughing affirmation.
At the door, I said, “Thank you for this day,” and he said, “It was a privilege, my friend,” and kissed me softly on the cheek I locked the door behind him and sat on my bed and cried. I thought, everything I’ve gone through, all the pain and grieving, all the loneliness and the dark places -they were all balanced, paid for, answered, by this one extraordinary, blessed day.
I’m glad I’m still reasonably attractive and I have lovely long hair, and thank God I lost weight last year and I’m a size 9. I want this man to be interested. No -make that fascinated. I liked him. I liked his face and the long, lean body; I liked the husky tenor voice and the way his eyes observed and the impression he gave of an open directness overlying something very inward, very private.
Shura Borodin braced his hands on the edge of the car window,brought his head down to where he could look directly into my eyes, and said one quiet word, “Yes.” A small shock went up my spine. I drove home, smiling for a long time.
I cried a bit because the wanting was so very intense and the clear night sky so very indifferent, and everything I was in body and soul might yet grow old without a lover and friend who could be to me what I was capable of being to him. I toasted myself, hope, the new year and the magnificent cold stars with a bit of wine, then went to bed.
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met his eyes and openly read them. There was inwardness, and pain at the corners, and something else right in the center, and that something else had to do with me, not with anybody named Ursula. I thought, he really is seeing me; I’m not just a couple of sympathetic ears.
“No, I don’t think so. There’s always some strain in the voice when a person’s doing that – you can pick it up pretty easily – and there’s absolutely no strain in Dolph’s voice, no hint of anything underneath. He sounds as if he honestly enjoys hearing from me and still likes me, unbelievable as that sounds. He rattles on about articles in journals, stuff like that, and we talk just as we used to when he was visiting here. Then he says goodbye very affectionately and turns the phone over to his wife.”
“Well, I’ve never had LSD, but one of the most extraordinary and important days of my life was the day I took peyote.” Shura leaned forward, “Really! When was that?” “Oh, good grief, I think it was -I have to count backwards for a moment- I think about 15-no, more than that- maybe 20 years ago. A very interesting man who has since become a psychiatrist took me on the journey; his name is Sam Golding. Do you know him?” Shura laughed, “Yes, I know Sam very well. We did a lot of work together in the 60’s; in fact, he co-authored a couple of papers with me. That was a long time ago, though. I haven’t seen him for at least a year.”
I realized I was staring at him with my mouth open. I said, “It sounds like the most exciting work in the universe, or am I mistaken?” “No, you’re absolutely right. At least, in my eyes, it is. Most people who call themselves psychopharmacologists, however, would assume I’m out of my mind.” “Why?” “Because trying new compounds out in your own body has gone out of fashion. It used to be the only responsible way for a person who called himself a scientist to evaluate a drug which was intended for human consumption, particularly if the drug was his own creation. Now, scientists shudder at the idea of anything but animal work, and when you argue that a mouse or a dog can’t possibly tell you how a drug is changing their perceptions or their feelings, it falls on deaf ears. They’re entirely comfortable with their way of doing things, and my old-fashioned approach strikes them as very strange and dangerous.” “What drugs have you invented? Would I know any of the names?”
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“There are a lot of people doing the kind of research I do, but at the moment, I’m the only one I know of anywhere who publishes on the effects of these materials in human beings.” “Why aren’t the others publishing?” “Mostly because chemists want to make enough money to support families and house payments, and buy the usual nice things, so they hire themselves out to large companies, or they work for universities, and one of the things you depend on in a university is government funds. When you’re dependent on funding from the government, or in a business which has contracts from the government, you play the game according to government rules.
And since the government decided that psychedelic drugs are too dangerous for anybody but the Pentagon and the CIA to play around with, they’ve refused to fund anything but animal research, and most of that animal research is directed toward reinforcing the idea that psychedelic drugs are dangerous in man.”
Shura was quiet for a moment, then said, “Well, yes, of course they are. But just what is the right way? Use them with care, and use them with respect as to the transformation s they can achieve, and you have an extraordinary research tool. Go banging about with a psychedelic drug for a Saturday night turn-on, and you can get into a really bad place, psycho logically. Know what you’re using, decide just why you’re using it, and you can have a rich experience. They are not addictive,and they’re certainly not escapist, either, but they’re exceptionally valuable tools for under standing the human mind, and how it works.”
Kelly arrived with his new girlfriend and I gave him a heartfelt hug, glad we were now, finally, friends. He hugged me back, taking a few seconds longer than his lady fully appreciated; I saw her mouth tighten and moved quickly to hug her, too, before she could step back from me. Don’t worry, sweetheart; he’s all yours!
I’d never been part of a triangle in my life; I’d been too proud, perhaps too arrogant–or maybe too unbelieving in myself–to even momentarily consider the possibility of competing with another woman for a man I liked. It just wasn’t my kind of scene. So why, why, was I doing this?
I waggled my hand helplessly and shrugged, feeling apprehensive and a bit silly. He was looking at me, smiling slightly. “I thank you for the invitation. It was an excellent idea, and if you hadn’t come up with it, I’m sure I would have found a way to suggest it myself.” It was a slightly formal, gallant gentleman thing to say.
He interrupted, “Not safe. There is no such thing as safety. Not with drugs and not with anything else. You can only presume relative safety. Too much of anything is unsafe. Too much food, too much drink, too much aspirin, too much anything you can name, is likely to be unsafe.” He was looking very intent, almost scowling.
“The most I can ever do in regard to a drug,” he continued, a shade more gently, “Is establish what appears to be a relatively safe level for myself, for my own body and mind, and invite my fellow researchers to sample the same material at what we decide is a relatively safe level for their particular bodies and nervous systems.”
sat staring at my knees for a moment as I tried to put broad, wide images into small, tidy words, “Well, my day with peyote helped me clarify a lot of things I had thought and felt all my life, but not pinned down, not really sorted out. It was – I think it really was the most extraordinary day of my life. It was such a treasure of an experience, I remember thinking just before I went to sleep that if I should wake up dead, it would have been worth it. I’ve done a lot of thinking about what I learned that day- years of thinking.
went on, “It seems to me that the magic plants- and the psychedelic drugs -are there to be used because the human race needs some way of finding out what it is, some way of remembering things we’ve usually forgotten by the time we’re grown up. I also think that the whole 1960’s eruption- all that psychedelic experimenting and exploring- was due to some very strong instinct- maybe on the collective unconscious level, if you want to use Jung’s term -an instinct that’s telling us if we don’t hurry up and find out why we are the way we are, and why we do the things we do, as a species, we could very soon wipe ourselves out completely.”
My hope is that, here and there, someone with a good mind -and heart -uses one of these tools and perhaps begins to understand something he didn’t under stand before. And that there may be a few with the courage and ability to write about what they’ve learned, so that others can read and begin to think. And so on and so on.” “Like Huxley.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, there aren’t many Huxleys around, ever. But each voice counts. All I can hope for is that there’ll be enough voices and enough time.” I said, “Well, the world seems to be full of people trying all kinds of ways to change consciousness; I mean, there are lots of meditation teachings, and hypnotic trance, and breathing techniques -”
“Yes, she enjoys them tremendously and she uses them well. I suppose that’s been one of the strongest elements in our closeness. And it’s one of the reasons I find it hard to understand some things about our relationship, because it’s almost impossible to get away with lying about your feelings when you’re sharing an altered state. She’s a very intelligent woman; she’s had difficult and complex insights and she’s shared them with me, as I’ve shared mine. I know how she feels about me.”
“So, one Sunday we gathered together with some of our closest friends and all of us -except the person who was doing the driving -took mescaline, then we piled our picnic and blankets into the car and went up to a place that has a tremendous view of the whole Bay, and settled down on the hillside for the afternoon. Helen had a wonderful experience, a really beautiful experience. And now,looking back, I wonder if-whether she might have had some intuition, some feeling about the future -but, anyway, I’m very glad she made the decision.”
“Not at all,” he said, and put out a hand to gently trace the outline of my cheek, “I’m a teacher, you know, and teachers love questions. It means somebody’s interested.” “Ah, yes,” I said, placing my hands on his shoulders, “I am very interested indeed. As you perfectly well know.”
“All I can offer you is truth. I will always tell you the truth- about my feelings, about what I’m thinking- and the rest I have to leave up to you.” I reached up and stroked the side of his cheek and said, ‘Thank you.” There was no doubt in me, no hesitation at all. There was a feeling of complete rightness about everything.
A rightness that was almost a sense of inevitability, as if this part of the script had been written long ago, and there was no other way to play it. I had no desire to change anything, right now. Tomorrow did not exist and neither, for the moment, did Ursula.
I looked at the fine line of one nostril, at the profile with its peacefully closed eye, and said, matter-of-factly, “I’m in love with you. It may not be sensible, but that’s the way it is. Now, good night, and sleep well.” I kissed a hollow in his neck and wiggled contentedly against him, then I became aware of a rich smell -something like carnations and fresh cut grass-
“But that’s the way it goes. Nothing in the world stays the same and you learn to roll with the changes. If you don’t,” he paused to sip coffee, “You waste a lot of energy and a lot of time regretting. Or trying to hold back what isn’t going to be held back. I still have a lot of privacy and I keep planting more trees every year to block the view into my place.”
“Oh, I see,” he smiled. “Actually, Berkeley isn’t that ordinary, you know. Once you get to know it, you find it’s full of exotic people.” I chuckled. At least he hadn’t denied being one of them.
“They’re quite extraordinary. Very, very strong silk. It’s so strong, in fact, that it was used in World War II for the cross-hairs in gunsights. Did you know that?”
Shura was saying, “Not very long ago, I decided- I made a decision to be who I am and say what I think and feel and those who can’t accept that and be equally open and honest with me-” he leaned forward, “I have things I want to do- must do- and I don’t know how much time I have, and I don’t want to waste any more time or energy than I have to, on people who play games or deal in half-truths. Not at this stage of my life.”
“Thank you for telling me, Shura. I don’t know what to say except that I can’t wish both of you luck. I wish myself the luck, to be honest, because I would like very much to be with you, as I told you last night.”
“Alice, I want you to hear what I say now. I enjoy being with you. Very, very much. Last night -last night was -it was a beautiful gift. I had a great need for what you gave me. You’re the last person I want to hurt in any way. I just don’t know what’s going to happen, and I realize it’s all very unfair to you, and there’s nothing I can do to make it easier. For myself or for you.”
At the door, he looked down at me, then wrapped his arms around me and lifted me off the floor. His mouth came down on mine, and I lost myself for a moment in the taste of him, the feel of lips that were achingly familiar, by now. Finally, he put me back on my feet and held me at arms’ length for a moment, his eyes moving over my face and body, as if memorizing. He expressing indignation at the way some of the poor people in Watts had looted the shops, not for food, but for television sets and other luxuries. I tightened my jaw against a surge of anger and suddenly realized that I knew something these comfortable women had no way of knowing– that food is not enough; that sometimes a person who has been poor for many years is hungrier for some pretty, sparkling, impractical thing than for bread, and that a television set is what everybody else has, a symbol of everything he is denied. It wasn’t right or good, but I understood it.
Christopher was a good father, gradually healing himself by being to his boys what his parents had not been to him. Like most abused children, he could be a difficult and demanding grownup, and I blessed Jane for being patient and determined and loving him enough to stay with him, even though he often showed little tolerance for her inadequacies and mistakes. She, too, had scars from childhood, and sometimes the two of them bruised each other emotionally, but there seemed to be a deep commitment at some level that kept them together.
once sat in on Christopher’s class, and- watching him with the youngsters -felt a bursting pride in having a son who was so excellent a teacher -I consider teaching to be the most important of all the professions. After saying goodbye at the end of my visit, I sat in my car for a while, tears running down my cheeks, aching with the knowledge that Brian, if he’d had teachers like his older brother, would have been spared much of the sorrow and rage and, above all, helplessness, he’d experienced so very young. Christopher did not allow scapegoating in his class.
I took a chance, “Would you like to come over and just relax? The kids have left for the weekend, and you can talk all you want or just be quiet and listen to music and have some wine.” Oh Lord- there’s no red wine in the house. There was another pause, then he said, “It wouldn’t be fair to you, for me to come over and talk about- about somebody else.” Please, don’t back away. I’ll take you under any conditions, Beautiful! “That’s nonsense. Of course you need to talk about Ursula, and I’d love to see you. Don’t complicate things that are perfectly simple. Just come over.”
“I appreciate your offer and I’d like to accept it, if you think you can put up with me -” “I’ll put up. There’s one thing you can do for me, though:bring your own red wine. I don’t think I’ve got any here.” “I’ll be glad to do that. It’ll take me about an hour, all right?” “Fine. See you when you get here.”
“Yes. The fear of losing control, being helpless, seems to be almost universal, and it certainly comes up in people who’ve never taken a psychoactive drug before. MDMA allows you to be totally in control, while getting a really good look at yourself. Adam told me that it does away with what he calls the fear barrier, the fear people have of seeing what’s going on inside them, who they are. Most people describe a feeling of acceptance inside which makes it all right to take a good look at themselves. It makes the insight relatively non-threatening.”
He said airily, “I think it’s rather nice! A perfectly honest, straightforward taste. A taste with character, I’d say. A taste with personality!” “You’re out of your ever-loving mind!” I opened the refrigerator, found a bottle of grapefruit juice and poured out enough to wash this particular character and personality out of my mouth. Shura chuckled at my grimace, which was only slightly exaggerated.
“Yes,” I said. My head was changing, now. It felt light. Not dizzy, just light. There was something else I was just beginning to be aware of: a feeling of peacefulness taking the place of the strangeness. Simple, overwhelming peacefulness.
It was coming like a wall of water roaring down a dry desert wash. Tears were rising in my throat and I let them come, not even trying to fight what I knew would not be held back. Part of me scolded that this wasn’t the way to encourage Shura to give me this stuff again -or any other psychoactive drug, for that matter. But there was a deeper, overriding certainty that this sorrow had been gathering inside me for a long time, for years, and that the pain had to be experienced, had to be released, if I was to become strong and whole.
I cried for a long time, huddled with my arms around myself, rocking in place, sobbing on the grass until the torrent began to lessen and I could pay attention again to the Observer, who noted that the peaceful center was still there, and that I should take another look at it. Underneath the terrible grief, there was a calmness, a serenity, and something that felt, incredibly, like joy. Don’t try to understand. Just know it’s there. You’re held in God ‘s hand, and that hand cradles you with complete love. All is well, even though that doesn’t make any sense right now.
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There was still the peacefulness within me, and a clarity to whatever I looked at, inside myself and outside. I was not afraid; there was no anxiety. Then the realization struck me that I lived most of the time in a state of habitual anxiety. I was so used to it, I had long ago forgotten to notice or wonder at it. Anxiety was my way of life. It was very unusual- and it felt wonderful -to be without it.
I went to the bathroom and looked into the mirror. The face I saw was radiant, the eyes glowing, pupils large. It looked open and unguarded. There was sadness there, kindness, longing, and a faint touch of hope. I smiled at the reflection.
“We did our best to be good parents, Helen and I. I think we were good parents, in every way but one. Neither of us really gave Theo the depth of acceptance and love that he needed. Helen did better than I, in that respect, but there was something missing for Theo. I wasn’t as supportive as I should have been, and I’ve regretted it deeply without knowing how to remedy it. As I said, I wasn’t a very loving human being at that time.”
“No, I enjoy what it does give me, and since I take it these days only with other people, I also enjoy the experience of seeing them open up and discover themselves. I don’t do it often, but every time I have shared it with somebody else, I’ve felt truly privileged. That’s the only way I can put it.”
Next came Leah Cantrell, a tall, thin girl-woman with long, dark blond hair fastened against the back of her neck with a blue ribbon. Hazel eyes searched mine, wanting to know everything. I felt an immediate liking for this quietly lovely person with the sensitive face.
While she washed lettuce for a salad, Ruth asked me questions. Where did I live, what kind of work did I do, how did I meet Shura? I answered willingly, aware of the mixture in her voice of empathy and strong curiosity. When, in response to a question, I told her I had four children, she said that she had wanted some of her own but found she couldn’t have them. I said I was surprised to hear that, because she had impressed me as the kind of person who would have lots of children, all of them well loved. She chuckled, “Well, I suppose I make up for it by mothering just about everybody else.”
I finally rose to go to the bathroom, and as I passed by Leah, she reached out a hand and I took it. She looked up at me and smiled with unmistakable warmth. I felt a surge of gratitude so strong, my throat caught on tears. When I squeezed her hand in response, she released me and withdrew again into her blanketed isolation.
truly in love, but I doubt she’s capable of what most of us would call real loving. The Jungians have a term, ‘anima woman.’ The anima woman lacks a solid identity; like many great actors, she borrows -she takes on -a sense of wholeness from playing a part. In this case, it’s the part of the muse, the inspiration, the adored dream- woman. She fulfills a fantasy, and you can imagine the tremendous emotional rewards there are for her in such a role, as long as the affair lasts. Each affair lasts, of course, only until the next needy attractive man comes along.
“This one heightens all the senses. You’ll enjoy food, smells, colors, and textures. The texture of skin, for instance–” he stared at me, stone-faced, “–and other aspects of eroticism, are thoroughly enjoyable.”
Then I remembered where I was, in this life, what my tongue and throat were doing, and what a passionate mouth was doing to me. I was on the bed of a man I belonged with and who belonged with me, and we were making love to the humming sound of a little floor heater and the music of Beethoven.
We were The Man and The Woman, Shiva and his bride, engaged in the Great Dance, the coming together and going apart in order to come together again. We were a single knot in a vast mesh which linked us to every other human being making love, everywhere. We were The Node, that to which all lines of life go, that from which all lines of life come. There was a sense of gold somewhere in the red. For an eternity, neither of us moved, neither tongue nor lips nor hands. We were. There was no separation between us.
Shura showered while I watched television, then I took my bath, watching the unmistakable undulating of surfaces and rippling of edges develop, keeping an interior eye on the strong energy tremor, observing the first- time anxiety as it mellowed out into trusting acceptance of the state and where it was going.
The two of us were joining in the net of light that covered the earth, adding ourselves, our emotions and thoughts, our experiences of each other’s smells and tastes, to flavor the whole. In the slowing of time, each touch of hand and mouth was an act of beauty, an offering of our own livingness and power to affirm. We were saying Yes to ourselves, to each other, to being alive, and Yes was pulsing back to us.
My problem was one which–I was beginning to realize–troubled a majority of humans on earth: I did not, at the very deepest level, believe in my own worth. There was a place in my soul where something fierce and strong lived, but I was in touch with it only in times of crisis and loss.
One of my ways of unconsciously buying favor and approval was to try to do whatever was asked of me by somebody I worked for or liked, whether I really wanted to or not. The inevitable result was often a job done less than enthusiastically, and occasionally badly.
But sometimes it got to me–the knowledge that I was the fill-in, the second-best–and my deeper self, less amenable to clarity of reason and purpose than the rest of me, showed its anger and fear in strange ways, at unexpected moments, despite my determination to avoid any obvious signs of stress.
It not only gave him a necessary strength, but was–in my view–the kind of elitism that many children born with very high intelligence learn to carry within them, if they are not to be crushed by the hostility of their peers when their gifts first become apparent in school.
Shura had not fallen into either trap. He had somehow learned or decided, by the time I met him, to be simply what he was, making no effort to hide any aspect of himself. By teaching, year after year, he developed patience,
finding ways to make clear to his undergraduate students the concepts he wanted them to master. He told me that he knew it was up to him to find the words and the right way to put them together, and when a student failed to understand, he accepted the responsibility for that failure; it meant he hadn’t taught well enough.
When he looked up from his desk, it was to speak in a voice tight with anger, “I’m so sick, sick, of being the one who has to solve everything for everybody. I’m sick of being the candy-man, the one who busts his ass in the lab to create new materials, new tools for exploring the human mind and how it works, while everyone around me only wants another trip. Nobody cares one whit about real research, real investigation, real work in this area.
When Shura was in his office, I washed the few dishes and cleaned every surface in sight, moving quietly so that he wouldn’t hear sounds and come out to see what was going on; I didn’t want him to feel more guilt at having said so much about tidiness.
Within forty minutes, his tense, angry face had cleared and he was sitting in his armchair, smiling at me. A few minutes later, he held out his arms and demanded that I come over and sit on his lap, right now, pronto, immediately. Siberia had been defeated. I knew it was not a resolution of the conflicts his psyche was dealing with, but there was no question that MDMA was effective against this particular form of shark attack from the depths.
until I was doubled over, and when I regained some control and straightened up, a glimpse of Shura’s astonished face set me off again. It was a losing battle for him; he sputtered, chuckled a few times, then gave in, howling with laughter, until we were holding onto each other for dear life–weak, gasping and feeling absolutely wonderful.
“That’s all right,” Shura said, soothingly, “I’ve been known to make mistakes, too. Made one in 1947, in fact. Remember it to this day.” I couldn’t help it; I laughed. He’s trying to make me feel better. Okay. I’m feeling better. “Anyway,” he continued, briskly, “Dante and Gemina Sandeman live in a little town called Gold Tree. They moved out there several years ago and built a terrific house with the mountains as a backdrop and coyotes howling them to sleep at night- wonderful place. I’ve known them for a long time and love them both dearly.”
“David’s one of the world’s few totally honest people,” continued Shura, “He has complete integrity in the scientific area, and I can’t say that about many of the scientists I know. It’s not that there’s intentional dishonesty or fudging of data or picking and choosing what’s to be presented; there are very few who actually cheat in the lab. It’s more a matter of judicious compromise, with far too many of them, especially those funded by the government. Sad to say, there’s almost nobody working in the academic area these days who isn’t funded by the government, directly or indirectly!”
I asked, “What kind of compromise, and why?” He said, “The problems that you look at, the questions you try to answer, are the ones presented by your source of funds, and the answers you give back are often phrased in a way best calculated to keep that source happy with you.”
He’s one of the world’s most trusting souls; he tends to have faith in people, believe what they tell him. Most of us who’ve managed to live beyond 25 or 30 have got some cautionary little voice that says, ‘Hold it, watch it. Is this person genuine; is he really what he seems to be?’ Right?”
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About Ginger, Shura said, “She’s got marvelous energy; she’s down to earth, warm, generous. She puts up with Dante’s–I don’t know what you’d call them–times when he gets depressed and uptight and finds fault with everything, with her and most of all with himself, and I think they’ve weathered some bad times in the marriage because they’ve learned to use the psychedelics to help them talk things out honestly with each other and to get some insight into their own emotional baggage, or what ever has been making things bumpy between them. They’re both good hearts, good souls. After all, it takes an essentially honest and good man to believe in others as much as Dante does–or used to.”
No-nonsense type lady. Forties? Fifties? Hint of unsureness underneath. Fighter. Survivor. She’s had pain in her life, too. I like them both, so far. Silly–don’t know them yet. But they feel good. Nice warm energy.
The onset of the change, this time, was subtle. I was aware of a sense of something familiar, but couldn’t be absolutely sure that what I was feeling was peculiar to mescaline, or simply typical of the transition to an altered state. I noted a mild, rather pleasant tingling in the neck and down my back.
I looked across the table at the daisies I had bought the day before, on my way to the Farm. They were shining softly in their simple glass vase, on top of the bookcase. Each white and yellow blossom seemed to tremble faintly in the light from the big window, as if grateful for the warmth.
Funny, I’d for gotten that what comes to you when you take a psychedelic is not always a revelation of something new and star tiling; you’re more liable to find yourself reminded of simple things you know and forgot you knew- seeing them freshly- old, basic truths that long ago became cliches, so you stopped paying attention to them.
Ruth was saying,”-colors are really vivid ; they seem to jump out at me, you know–a little red Hello here and a blue Hello there–and everything I look at seems to be moving a bit.”
participant with others, a member of a family, which was the entire species. I was aware, as I had been on the peyote day, so long ago, of a level of reality in which every human being was connected with every other, and that the connectedness was not of mind or personality, but of something far more basic; it was a spiritual or psychic touching which was blocked from consciousness most of the time, but which existed nonetheless, from birth to death. We were all woven into one tapestry, and at some deep, unconscious level of ourselves, we each shared every thing known and felt by every other living person on the planet.
I stood next to him in the open air, looking around. Every tree, every bush radiated light. I remembered my peyote experience, when I’d had to squint against the pulsing colors of the flowers. Now, the nasturtiums clustered on the bank to the right of the path were glowing rich yellow and an orange-red which I could feel in my stomach, while the grass sang life in the key of green.
Shura glanced at me thoughtfully, then looked away again, “You’re probably right. When you’re little, you live in what we would call a psychedelic world, surrounded by it.” I said, “I remember, with the peyote, I had the same feeling of familiarity about the world I was seeing. The territory wasn’t strange at all; I had just forgotten it.”
This interweaving, this shared energy; it exists between all living things. My Beloved Friend of the spiral is living the story of all things alive, everywhere. Shura had taken my arm and was leading me up the path to the lab. We walked slowly, in silence, stopping every few steps to look at an exquisite line or flare of color. Every turn of branch, every curve of flower stalk was a word of language, a communication from the particular shape taken by the energy that flowed around us.
“I’ll always be grateful to him,” I concluded, “For two things: teaching me how to make Russian hamburgers and how to hear the music of Bach. The rest of my relationship with him was mostly pain and grief, but those two gifts deserve acknowledgment. Shura was smiling, “I don’t know what Russian hamburgers taste like, but certainly, being able to appreciate Bach is one of the things I consider essential to a fully lived life!”
Ursula, I am taking the liberty of writing to you directly, without the knowledge of Shura, because I think you should know what the situation is and because he is suffering greatly from what he reads in your letters–or, rather, what he does not read. I have been in love with Shura since the Fall of last year, when I first met him. We allowed ourselves to become involved during the past many months, because of our mutual loneliness and need for companionship of a kind that is hard to find for intelligent people with unusual interests such as ours. He has told me from the first time we met of his love for you. He has never failed to mention you, to talk of you, as the woman he loves and wishes to live with for the rest of his life, and it was in full knowledge of all this that I decided to continue my relationship with him, a relationship which must end, of course, when you finally come to be with him, to live with him and make this place your home. What
I am attempting to do, in writing this, is to tell you that I believe this man is worth the pain I feel in knowing that I cannot have his heart, and the pain it will be for me to relinquish the closeness and the extraordinary communication of ideas and concepts. I could have saved myself all this pain, both past and future, if I had decided not to become involved in his life. But I decided otherwise. For the first time in my life (and most certainly the last), I let myself be part of a triangle -I allowed myself to love a man who loves someone else. I am older than you, Ursula, but I am still a woman of some attractiveness and certainly of great pride, so this was not an easy decision. I wish you to know that I can see him go to you without jealousy or hostility, when you come to join him, because I love him enough to want to see him fulfilled. He believes–and since he does, I must–that you are the one person in the world who can make him truly and deeply happy. Since this is so, I can only hope and pray that your love for him is, and will continue to be, the equal of his for you. If it is, I will be– in time–content and even satisfied.
Rachmaninoff ‘s music was forming huge petals of sensuous violet and pink, with a stamen of glowing yellow. Georgia O’Keefe, without question. Suddenly, a tiny fire caught somewhere, far away. The flame spread slowly, and with it rose an almost unbearable sweetness that flooded everywhere as it drove the line of fire toward me, through me.
That doesn’t explain loneliness, pain, sadism, torture, all the cruelty and suffering! Why does the dark side have to be so dark, so evil, so terrible? “For there to be life, there must be duality–yes-no, positive-negative, male-
female. For there to be life, the One must become two halves, Yin and Yang, each half defining itself in opposition–light does not know it is light until it meets darkness–and without this duality, there would be only The Seed, and no flowering. Darkness is. Light is. Each grows, changes and elaborates, shaping itself in new ways, expressing itself in new forms, destroying itself and renewing itself eternally.”
plants thrusting up by the tens of thousands, each individual plant totally unlike any other, some exquisitely beautiful, others grotesque and misshapen; he saw each plant blossoming, withering, then falling lifeless, within moments of its birth. The hero looked on in growing horror until, unable to stand the sight any longer, he ran out of the valley. I remembered shuddering at what was obviously a portrayal of human existence, each new person emerging with a completely distinctive, never to-be-repeated set of genes, fingerprints and psychic structure, billions of such one-of-a-kind entities continually being born and dying, all over the earth. The picture was one of terrible waste, of vast indifference on the part of the producing force, and one could only feel a profound horror and, like the book’s hero, try to run away. I had thought at the time, and
“Know that there is no safety anywhere. There never was and there never will be. Stop looking for it. Live with a fierce intent to waste nothing of yourself or life.” There was one final message. “Turn fear around. Its other face is excitement.”
frightened by the rage, by the horrible force of it. It was one thing to know intellectually that it would mellow out to anger, and that the anger, in turn, would soften to acceptance, and that it was all part of the healing process; it was quite another to feel it shaking my body, to realize that it was this kind of sharp, thrusting fury that caused some people to kill other people, just to rid themselves of the ugly pain by putting it into someone else.
Come on, for Pete’s sake, it said, don’t distort your perceptions or your ways of thinking, even though you’re feeling murderous. You don’t have to justify the rage; it has a right to be there. Just experience it. Let it go through you. You’ll stay sane. You’ll come out in one piece.
I was beginning to feel the first effects of the MDMA. There was a corner of quietness inside, just a hint of a pale, cool, dove-grey feeling at the edge of the searing fire. I was crying again, hard. My body was still trembling. The tremor’s probably the way the body is handling the too much energy of the anger. It’s all right. In fact, it feels good.
“Well,” I said, “Even if it all ends up being imagination and nothing to do with reality, I must admit that the MDMA has given me a great feeling of having gone through the worst of all this and coming out the other side. Maybe it won’t last, but I really do feel some healing, some sort of–well, as if the bleeding has stopped, so to speak. And, by the way, thanks to all of you for having been so helpful while I was in this state. I’m very grateful to you and love you very much. End of speech. Continue with homework.” When I had seen them into bed, having hugged each of them with a very good hug, so that they could feel with their body antennae the absence of hurting in me, it was around 10:00 PM.
Ursula: This will be the last time I write to you, and I do so more as an exercise in futile anger than in the hope that it will accomplish anything worthwhile, because you seem to live in a world that is not understandable to me, and I cannot identify with what you feel and do, although I have tried to do just that for more than six months. You have been portrayed to me by Shura as a highly intelligent, sensitive, deeply feeling and responsible woman; a woman who opened the long-closed doors inside him and showed him how to experience emotions he had buried for most of his adult life. You were the magic, beautiful and loving person who was his refuge, his other self, his future.
No, lady. If he asks me to come back into his life, it certainly won’t be because I bring order and neatness. It’ll be because I bring love–the kind that stays and puts down roots–and because I share the adventuring and the excitement. I remembered the words about her soul being connected to everything,every little place, on the Farm. What she was saying, of course, was, “I will always be there, I will always be with you. No other woman can take my place.”
He’s being a bastard, putting me through a mini-version of what Ursula put him through, all the lack of contact, dangling me on a string, and it’s all because he believes–whether he’s aware of it or not -that being with me is inevitable. He’s feeling trapped in the inevitability of it,at this point, instead of taking pleasure in what it could mean. That’s why the silence, letting me wonder if he considers me worth any more of his bloody time. He’s feeling he really has no choice, and he’s angry. Maybe it’s a kind of “Either I replace Ursula with Alice, or I go the hermit route and shut out everyone.” Is that what he’s fighting? And if it is, what the hell can I do about it? I’m through being the blasted saint and martyr. I’m not going to make it easy for him.
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Everything I saw around me spoke of memories, of the past, and I was stuck now in a place which was not the past, and not anywhere else either. I could not believe in a future with Shura, I dared not believe in it because such a belief would make me vulnerable to a degree I just couldn’t risk. So I must not believe in a future with his house, his furniture, his cactus plants, or anything else I saw here. All of it might have to belong only to my past, and I dared not expect it to be otherwise.
looked around at the room and said, “There’s a lot of color. It’s more noticeable than usual–I mean, there are little prisms, rainbows, every where.” Shura nodded silently. I looked out the windows at the twilight and continued, “I see what you mean by saying it’s pushy. It does sort of press on you a bit. Maybe it’s because the transition begins so soon. But it also gets very intense quickly, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s a certain sense of being on a rollercoaster ride.”
When I moved, I felt solidly connected with the physical world, yet there was still that feeling of being more a body of energy particles than of flesh and bone. It was quite pleasant, when I allowed myself to feel pleasantness, and the thought occurred to me as I pushed open the bedroom door that it was time to stop worrying about keeping control or appearing in this light or that; it was time to just be who I was and let myself feel the emotions, including laughter, because to do otherwise was to be untrue to myself, manipulative of Shura, and wasteful of a possibly great experience.
We lay beside each other on the bed, Shura naked and I still in my dressing gown. When I closed my eyes, the inner world erupted into detailed imagery. Shura went up the radio dial and found Chopin, and when he turned back to me, I sat up and took off my gown. I saw behind closed eyelids a lovely scene. We–Shura and I–were looking down from an open balcony into a central courtyard. We were in a place that appeared to consist of balconies hung with baskets of flowers, storey upon storey, surrounding the courtyard below. Ivy plants rose from the edges of the garden and crept up the walls and columns. Looking down into the center of the round garden space, I saw a tiled platform and on it, a grand piano which was being played–Chopin’s music, of course–by a young man in a tuxedo. I could see only the top of his brown hair and his moving hands.
Davidson Hang is currently in Sales at Cheetah Digital which is a Marketing technology company located in NYC.
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