[Elusive Ayahuasca – Part 1]  .  [Elusive Ayahuasca – Part 2]

Part 3

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Bolivian Amazon -home for the week

Camp life

The day after the 1st ceremony I had a classic post-trip day feeling: a lethargic slumber but mentally light and with a bright outlook. I reflected on my visions from the night before, if they had any meaning it was about the impermanence of thoughts and how they create our reality. Something was lacking though; I only reflected on this theoretically and without the feeling where you truly realise something and know it in your bones.

At the kitchen the French couple Mabelle and Jean were saying their goodbyes. Jean was leaving that day, he had to drive a van back to Chile to sell. Mabelle was different again, she was floating and smiley, she seemed to have processed some of what had passed in the last ceremony. She’d decided to stay at the camp to do one more ceremony, she felt she had something unfinished and incomplete with ayahuasaca and felt that staying for her 3rd ceremony would be for the best. She hadn’t been apart from Jean in 10 months but they didn’t seem to have any doubts about their decision. Jean wished us ‘buenas ceremonias’ and left for Chile. I smoked a fat joint with Augustino after breakfast and headed out to the river.

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River chilling

It was decided that our last two ceremonies would be on consecutive nights, my last two nights staying in the jungle. This meant the next 3 days and 2 nights would be free to settle in to life in the jungle and relax. I passed time reading and meditating and went with Sophie out to the river everyday to cool down from the baking sun and escape the bugs. We went out for walks in the surrounding rainforest and really started to bond as we got to know each other more deeply.

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During these days I shared many conversations with Augustino and learnt more about the people and the project there, and got a sense of their life in the rainforest. Augustino, now in his thirties, was from Ushuaia, a resort town in Patagonia on the southernmost tip of South America; ‘the bottom of the world’. He’d left home in his late teens, travelling South America working as an artisan, as many do, making crafts to sell on the street and juggling at traffic lights for money. He’d met Maria on the Isla Del Sol, a beautiful place on Lake Titicaca popular with hippies and artisans. He’d first took Ayahuasca with Guillermo years before, and later Guillermo took him on to work at the site. Later, he had invited his nephew Carlos who’d also followed the same artisan/juggler route, to come and work at the site too.

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Inside the temple, a palapa

I also learnt of their process of making ayahuasca, how they go on an ‘excursion’ of a couple of days up to the nearby mountain to bring the necessary plants back to create the brew of ayahuasca, and how after they spend days grinding the vine, boiling it and making the brew, all the while drinking ayahuasca and singing tributary ayahuasca songs day and night. Just your typical working routine then.

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Where the ayahuasca is made

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Boiling spot for aya

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Preparation process

The Shaman’s Story

Augustino also told me of the years of training that Guillermo had done to become a shaman, drinking ayahuasca almost daily and learning from the elders. Guillermo had started his psychedelic journey at the extreme end – with Datura, AKA Jimson weed, at the age of 14 (seriously), before going on to take and learn about San Pedro, temazcal ceremonies, and ayahuasca. He had an instant affinity for ayahuasca and drank it many times eventually joining the Santiago de Chile branch of the Santo Daime church. There he received ayahuasca and teachings from the fathers of the church and began to start conducting ceremonies himself. Amongst other traditional medicines he went on to learn about kambo, the frog poison cleanse, before receiving a message from ayahuasca to go to Bolivia. He and his family sold all their things, came to Bolivia, bought land, set up the project, and a few months later, I was there.

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The shaman, Guillermo, playing icaros in the temple

Final ceremonies

Ahead of the final ceremonies Augustino offered us some more advice. Intentions should never be something material – ‘to get a better car’, but always something relating to the spirit – ‘to be a better person’, ‘to be healed’. One should stay with their intention in mind during the ceremony, and not lie down too soon in order to stave off feelings of sleepiness and drowsiness. At the next ceremony there would be an offering of rapé (snuff tobacco shot up the nostrils for cleansing), and apparently this would aid us in staying alert and awake. Going in to the 2nd ceremony I had a strong determination to stay focused on my intention and relaxed. On the day, after a light early brunch, we drank chicha de yucca- yucca smashed into a juice-like pulp, with Augustino advising that it would help with the body’s processing of the ayahuasca.

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The altar w/ bottled ayahuasca

The 2nd ceremony – 4 Cups and a Side of Rapé

Aswell as the resident trio, this time all three of them in white shirts for the ceremony, Mabelle, Maria, and Guillermo’s wife were present. As we arrived to the temple that evening there was also a new face by the fire, a young Frenchman who would be beside me for the ceremony. He drank before me each round and quite clearly had trouble doing so, taking a good minute to finish the cup, raising his arm to cover his mouth as he gagged between every gulp. Typical French hamming it up.

The ceremony followed the same rhythm – opening prayers, icaros, bell, drinking in silence, vomiting, icaros, bell, drinking and so on. Guillermo’s wife joined in with many of the icaros, her voice soothing and beautiful. This time I sat up straight in meditation posture with my eyes closed for nearly all of the ceremony and continually returned to my intention, using it like a mantra. There was no meditation this time round but the rapé after the 2nd cup.

The Rapé

After the round of ayahuasca Guillermo walked over to a knee height cross, faintly illuminated by a small candle at its base, just outside the temple. He explained that anyone was free to come and take the rapé, a mix of pulverised tobacco and other plants shot into one’s nostrils for mental and physical cleansing. A sacred shamanic medicine that’s been used by healers of the Amazon basin for thousands of years, I’d wanted to try rapé for a while and after a couple of the others I made my way over to the cross.

Using a thin wooden pipe with a bend in the middle, Guillermo loaded the tobacco mix into one end, pointed the other end to my right nostril, placed the pipe to his lips and gave a short sharp blast of air. The mix shot up to somewhere behind my eyes and landed with an explosion of ridiculously intense stinging. I reeled back instantaneously, shaking my head in an instinctive attempt to somehow lessen the burning sensation permeating the area below my frontal lobe. After spitting and managing to open my eyes again through the subsiding pain I stepped back to receive the rapé in my left nostril. The burning was reignited and spread further than the first. As I paced around I spat and blew my nose. My sinuses felt clearer and Augustino was right; I was wide awake.

After myself the Frenchman went up for his rapé. Augustino administered his and, true to form, the Frenchman gave a show. After receiving his first shot he jerked about feverishly as if he were being tortured, continually shifting his head to face a new direction as if he would find the magic spot which would relieve him from his agony. His hands and arms followed the jerky dance as Augustino called him back for the second nostril, but he was oblivious to the calls. After repeated calls and as the agitations died down, Augustino was able to get him back for the second nostril; the queer dance received a new lease of life and he was off again, I couldn’t help but be amused.

After the rapé the icaros started up again and the ceremony continued as per usual. Again, my experience throughout was one of normal waking consciousness accompanied by feelings of wooziness. Nothing notable passed, with the exception of one occurrence.

Déjà vu

Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th cup, whilst laying back I experienced a strong and clear déjà vu. I had experienced that moment before; by the fire, the icaros sounding out, in the jungle, on that night. Normally with deja vu there is the sense that we’ve absolutely experienced it before but we’re not sure when. This was different in that I remembered exactly when I’d experienced it before. I had experienced that moment before in a dream, two years prior, on a 10-day silent meditation course. During the course I’d had the most vivid and intense dreams of my life, extremely clear and emotionally heavy, many of which I still remember to this day.

Whether this was a some trick of the mind or there was something more mystical at work -some kind of premonition piercing linear time- I know that the feeling was real. I knew that was where I had experienced it before. The déjà vu moment lasted a few seconds, was followed by my realisation of where I had experienced it before, and then passed. My experience continued as before until the closing of the ceremony; hazy, woozy and unclear.

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Post-ceremony

As the ceremony ended and the silence was broken the Frenchman turned his head to me, ‘good travel’ he smiled. I stood up and as everyone exchanged hugs and well wishes, Augustino came over to me.

‘La chicha uh?!’ he said pointing to me with a massive grin on his face, expecting me to report on a wondrous journey and credit the chicha de yuca I’d drank in preparation. I reluctantly smiled, I so wanted to be able to share in that, to give the response he was expecting: to crack a huge smile and reply ‘the motherfucking chicha!’ – but I couldn’t, nothing had happened.

‘Mañana, mañana’ he reassured me. There was still the last ceremony to come and apparently the medicine worked more strongly on a second consecutive night.
I looked over and saw the faces of Sophie and the French boy flickering orange from the fire. They were sat together talking and I could tell by their expressions and the tone of their voices that they were speaking of something magical, something hitherto unseen – they were sharing their experiences. Mabelle was still and smiling as she stood gazing into the fire, she looked as though she had seen something so beautiful she wanted to cry.

I knew that something special was happening there. Again I could sense the magic, it was present in the people all around me and it filled the fibres of the jungle air, yet it remained out of my reach. I understood and accepted; you can choose to take ayahuasca, but it also has to choose you. You can make the decision to drink it, travel to far flung lands and take cup after cup in the jungle, but you’re not necessarily going to experience anything. I’d heard that ayahuasca will give you what you need rather than what you want, and perhaps this was true in my case but I doubted it; I didn’t feel like I’d got either.

5 Final Cups – Last Ceremony, Last Chance?

The next night, for the 3rd and final ceremony, I had no expectations. I went to the temple totally relaxed and calm that night. It was the same story – varying levels of wooziness within a pervading normal waking state of consciousness. Instead of meditating or keeping an intention in mind I passed the ceremony admiring the rite: the quirkiness of the rituals, the tones of the icaros and the ambience of the night around the fire. And that was it, the last ceremony.

Where Next?

As the ceremony closed I reflected on my week in the jungle. The setting, the ceremonies, our shaman, the people there; all were as good as I could’ve hoped for. The ceremonies were beautiful and I could see how everyone involved in the project there deeply cared about their work and their mission. I felt grateful for the opportunity to take ayahuasca in a safe and beautiful setting with support from everyone there. But, I was still short of what I really came for; something otherworldly, induced deep psychological introspection, perhaps illumination. Drinking ayahuasca in the amazon was the decisive reason why I came to South America and I’d hoped would be a massive revelation of my trip. After all, it felt incomplete. It’d now been 5 times that I’d drunk ayahuasca, and despite my unwavering sobriety I could see that it was having serious effects on the others who drank with me. I’d drank 14 cups in the last week and still had barely broken out of normal consciousness nor had an ayahuasca experience. I felt at a cross roads.

Do I accept that ayahuasca may never give me what I’m looking for, move on with my life and leave it behind? Or defy the messages that nothing’s coming, and keep searching?

The answer was simple: I accept it and the search continues. I accepted that the week in the rainforest wasn’t what I was looking for. I accepted that I’d had no grand experience and undergone no serious change. I was in total acceptance of all my unsatisfied expectations and felt at peace. I accepted it all but I knew in my heart that the search wasn’t over. The mystery of ayahuasca and my curiosity about the brew had only been heightened and I would be back to traverse these terrains another day. I was at peace and ready to leave this chapter open for the time being. I came to the jungle, partook in the ceremonies, witnessed the beauty of the age old ritual around the fire and felt the magic in the place and people – and that was enough, for now. The final chapter on ayahuasca awaits – maybe I’ll find out that ayahuasca just doesn’t work with me physiologically, or perhaps this is just my story, that my aya path is to be a long and winding one with an epic finish. Time will tell, the journey goes on.

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The road out

Time To Move On

I woke up the next day excited to continue my travels, a week ahead I needed to be in Peru to meet a friend before heading on up to Mexico. I’d already decided that I’d head south from Mexico and venture through Central America before returning to South America and once again the amazon where the mystery of aya will still be waiting.

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The village passed through leaving the jungle

I left in the afternoon with Sophie, we were going to end our time together on the Isla Del Sol on Lake Titicaca, ‘the most beautiful place in Bolivia’ according to Augustino. Now that sounded like a good place for a trip

If you would like to learn more about Guillermo and his project and go on retreat there, visit the website Casa Buen Retiro

[Elusive Ayahuasca – Part 1 is online here]

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Temple by day

Elusive Ayahuasca: Part 2

The 1st Ceremony

After Gulliermo’s call I pulled on some clothes, gave Sophie a hug, wished her the best for the ceremony and, more to reassure myself, told her that everything will be OK. It would just be the two of us with the three residents for the ceremony that night. As I was approaching the temple I could see the others inside, the fire in the centre was already burning and sufficient firewood for the evening stacked beside. As I arrived, Guillermo, now dressed all in white for the ceremony, was waking Carlos up by means of prodding him. Carlos was still tired from the ceremony and ‘after-party’ the night before. Guillermo told us where we’d each be for the ceremony and I went over to put my things (head light, sleeping bag, bog paper and water) down.

Guillermo carried a shovel with incense and some herbs burning on it around the temple; I believe this is a rite to protect from malevolent spirits. As I went for a nervous pee Guillermo and Carlos tuned their guitars, and shortly after at around 1:30am with us all around the fire, Guillermo announced ‘vamos a comenzar’ – we’re going to start. He gave us some guidelines – no talking during the ceremony, go outside the temple to throw up, anywhere outside in nature is fine – and also try not to throw up on yourself (the thought drew a childish smile from myself), you are free to leave the temple for periods but always try to return, and try to drink all the cups which are offered – if you don’t want more then tell him and he will only pour you out a small symbolic cup.

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The ceremony started and it was pretty ceremonial. It was indeed a service; it reminded me of church. With Santo Daime being Brasilian in origin, the service was conducted in Portugese. We stood around the fire and the Lord’s prayer was spoken in unison by Guillermo, Augustino and Carlos. This shouldn’t have been surprising considering I knew our shaman apprenticed in the Santo Daime tradition (a syncretic religion which amongst various other spiritual and religious traditions such as African animism and traditional South American shamanism, draws influence from Folk Catholicism), but it did feel solemn, a far cry from my first, and majority of, psychedelic experiences – taken with some friends in a private apartment with music pumping, surrounded by novelties with which to amuse ourselves and a choice of other drugs on hand to select from throughout the trip at our leisure. But there, in a rustic temple around a campfire in the Amazon rainforest, no talking permitted; quite different.

Taking a cup from the altar, a table with a Wiphala pattern tablecloth, a cross in the centre and adorned with various precious stones, a couple of black and white photos of old men (whom I assume are masters/originators of Santo Daime) and some other curious items, Guillermo filled it with ayahuasaca from a glass jug. Augustino walked over, took the cup, held it to his forehead and drank. Carlos followed and with the next cup full Guillermo glanced at me, my turn.

I paused with the cup in my hands and thought of my intention before drinking. Fairly disgusting, an earthy taste with an offensively sour punch, but like a nasty medicine, could be drunk without much problem with the will to do so. After drinking his cup, Guillermo returned from the altar to the other side of the fire and broke the eerie silence with song. He sang acapella, the only accompaniment being the cabasa in his hands which he used to mark the rhythm – shake:shake: turn, shake:shake:turn. Some songs he sang from a hymn book, lit by a small candle, others from memory. As he sang there dressed all in white there was a priestly and holy manner about him. I could hear and see the care with which he sang.

After a while the songs stopped and Guillermo returned to the altar, picking up a small bell and ringing it; this signified the second round of ayahuasca. Again, one after another, we returned to the altar and drank the brew. After his turn Carlos left the temple and I heard him vomiting violently somewhere nearby in the surrounding darkness. On his return the songs started up again and at some point the guitars and a shaker were introduced, the trio of them playing the icaros together. The scene was somehow enchanting; the temple lit up by the crackling fire the five of us surrounded, beyond our backs the encompassing darkness of the night in the rainforest, the ceaseless hum of nocturnal life the murmuring backdrop to the holy songs and hymns ringing out to be lost amongst unseen life. The peaceful scene had a strange intensity; I could feel the power of the ancient rite and imagined all the thousands of people before me, stretching back over hundreds and thousands of years, participating in this very same ceremony.

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Night in the rainforest

The songs stopped and the bell rang again: 3rd cup. After everyone had drunk Guillermo announced concentration practice and that each was free to do their own meditation. I did a breath meditation, struggling to maintain my focus, and after about 15 minutes in silence the icaros started up again. My mind was scattered and messy with thoughts flying by. I’d began to feel woozy and nauseous but yet to perceive or feel anything out of the ordinary. I laid back with my sleeping bag wrapped around me and drifted in and out of the music.

At the 4th cup, Sophie didn’t wake to the ringing bell. After everyone else had drunk, Guillermo rang the bell a few more times in an attempt to rouse her but to no avail. She seemed to be somewhere else. I drank in smaller gulps this time round – a mistake which I didn’t repeat; the taste was more apparent and about 3 quarters through I felt the contents of my stomach bubbling up. I was caught wondering whether to try and suppress it long enough to finish the cup or to head out of the temple to throw up. Cup in hand, standing indecisively, Guillermo saw it coming and took the cup from me. I darted out into the darkness and puked up pure liquid for about 20 seconds. Still kinda dazy but with a relieving lack of nausea I returned to the temple and drifted in and out of the edge of sleep, rousing at the last bell for the 5th cup.

At the 5th, Guillermo announces that it’s the last cup and that we can drink ‘a little, or more’. Still yet to feel anything from the medicine, I opted for more and made sure I drank every last drop. Sophie awoke at the bell this time round, apparently back from her travels, and drank a symbolic cup. The songs continued, as did my daze in day-dreams and messy thoughts, but unfortunately nothing else. I hadn’t had any visions, hallucinations, emotional swellings or any real change in perception of thoughts.

As beguiling as the ceremony was I felt a slight disappointment. I had come to travel a deeply personal journey as part of an ancient rite but it felt more like I’d been a spectator to the occasion. This theme would develop during my week stay, and I was starting to get an inkling for the mystery of ayahuasca. Finally the ceremony was closed; the icaros paused, some finals prayers said and Carlos played one last song.

After the Ceremony – Change, Presence and Thought Visions

As the last note rang out the transition was immediate and tangible. It was like a bubble of tension was burst; smiles replaced somber looks and were accompanied by a kind of ‘we made it’ relief. The solemn atmosphere had vanished and everyone exchanged hugs – it was unifying and quite a beautiful thing. As conversations began to start up amongst us Augustino asked me if my experience was strong. I told him not really and he flapped his hand as if already pushing it into the past, ‘la proxima’ – the next one, he reassured me. I still had two more ceremonies to come. Guillermo advised me that whatever happened during the ceremony, to keep my intention in mind in the following days to see if the medicine had any effect.

With the atmosphere light and relaxed, the guys settled down and began chatting amongst themselves. I asked Guillermo if it was OK for me to smoke a joint, unsure as many shamans advise to abstain from smoking weed for up to weeks before taking ayahuasaca.

‘Yes, it’s medicine too’ he smiled.

‘Well if the shaman says its OK then why not?’ I indulged in a smoke and passed the joint on. As I watched the trio chatting and joking with each other, I smiled to myself. It reminded me of my friends back home. Even here, 6,000 miles away in the rainforest, friends liked to close a psychedelic adventure by hanging out and having a joke over chats of their travels. I could sense their bond and felt bittersweet – I felt a fresh connection to my friends back home and missed them dearly.

I walked over to Sophie and asked her about her experience – ‘pretty heavy’ apparently. She’d had visions, images and scenes- a deceased family member in a rocking chair, people dancing in the jungle – visible and discernible for a short while before shapeshifting and morphing to form the next. While she was having them she realised that she had no control over what she was seeing, just an observer, and in her disbelief couldn’t help but smile. As we talked I could see the magic of a first psychedelic experience in her eyes; the disbelief, the experience of something truly magical – the discovery of a new world and unfathomable possibilities; I could see in her the lingering excitement of an adventurer who has recently returned. For that I felt joyous. I felt contented to have been an influence on her path there and reflected that if I didn’t gain anything but she had a positive experience – something to take away to help her on her journey – then perhaps that’s just my role in this chapter. That was enough for me.

Her head was still way up in the clouds. She would say that she wanted to go to the tents to sleep and then seconds after the decision was made would be off again with the fairies, remaining stationary and gazing absently into the distance. By the time we’d got back to the tents and were ready to sleep the sun was coming up and the birds starting their morning call. The joint seemed to have triggered something; I began to feel incredibly present and tuned in to the surroundings. I was really there in the Amazon! The sounds of the forest were intensely magnified, I heard the flutter of the birds’ wings with a crystalline quality as they flew overhead, their weird and exotic calls took on the significance of life irrepressibly living itself out. They sounded more alien than ever, more like a power up sound on a computer game than an animal. I lay awake with mouth and eyes open, listening intently and marvelling in the moment.

As I closed my eyes and began to drift off to sleep, thoughts turning over in my mind, I started to have accompanying visions. I was seeing the growth and construction of my thoughts in the same moment that I was having them, as a kind of 3D image. I would see a bright polychrome construction built up, the form mutating rapidly in time and rhythm with my thought as it progressed. Then, as my thought reached its conclusion and developed no more, the accompanying object of my vision would simultaneously mirror, stopping movement and ceasing its metamorphosis in a moment of completion, before crumbling into tiny fragments and falling away, dissipating as if turning to dust, the canvas of my mind becoming blank once more. As my mind commenced the next thought, a new accompanying vision would sprout from the nothingness and the process would repeat itself. The metamorphosis of the visual thoughts was extremely rapid, the object entirely transforming itself with every passing second, a fusion of something that seemed mechanistic and with man-made forms, but organic in nature, and always synchronised to the movement of my thought. The show continued for about half an hour before melding into my dreams as I passed through to sleep.

Continue the story – the final part … Elusive Ayahuasca – Part 3

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Rurrenabaque

4 months into what would be 13 travelling through Latin America, I spent a week in the Bolivian rainforest. This is an account of that week long stay on the edge of the Amazon rainforest and the 3 ayahuasca ceremonies I took part in. The site was across the river from Rurrenabaque, near to San Buenaventura, Bolivia. Read more

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The fateful tabs


The Ego Strikes Back

As I’ve already stated, acid is a reflection of our own mind, not one in itself. With this in mind, I’ve already made a classic mistake in writing this, I forgot about the golden rule; personal perception. Even with all my evidence for espousing support for ego-death theory earlier, I must redress the balance now.

Although, generally loss of ego/subjectivity with LSD is recognised as a universal feeling, I have still made huge assumptions on what others may have felt and made the biggest donut of this whole series of memoirs. Who’s to say the egotistically bereft acid vets Jack met weren’t expressing their personalities? Perhaps they were vague and bland before acid. Similarly, my slip into nihilism and numbness from acid thinking may have just been due to my own personality, I’m just articulating this through a recent drugs experience, whereas before I would have defined the same feelings through a different lens. Also, just as those who take acid like beer (let’s get fucked!) could be looked down on for missing the point, so could the more philosophical cosmonauts like Leary and Huxley. Ultimately, after the experimental phase, people usually do drugs for enjoyment purposes (assuming there’s no addiction involved), but due to LSD’s effect, the experience can be interpreted as highly revelatory or deep to the right mind. This is why, increasingly, it seems the self does exist strongly and does affect even one’s feelings of losing the self.

An example of this self-influenced objectivity trick is the fact that open-minded or unorthodox thinkers seem to have more gratifying or deep experiences on LSD compared to those who take the drug with a pre-perceived prejudice or try to fight its effects. So either there is a pure feeling of objectivity and only some people are “getting it” and others not, or the feelings of “oneness” are a societal creation by liberal westerners who take acid. However, too many people seem to confirm similar feelings of unity and infinity when they take acid so this may be more universal. Once again, the trick of circularity trips us up though, as soon as we believe the ego has been smashed by objectivity we see our perception mushroom into different layers and we start to think of the chains of causality affected by people’s ego/personality/interactions that cause us to research, organise, and then take acid in the first place, so suddenly it seems even our ego requires release.

In this post-acid funk I’ve been in recently, at once positive in one breath and existentially tortured in another, my attentions have increasingly been affected by a recent bout of clinical depression my brother has gone through. Leaving work for a month my brother moved back home for support and we ended up having many long philosophical talks whilst walking around our neighbourhood in the evening, an attempt in talking things out. My brother is closer to middle-age than me which made me wonder if perhaps I would feel the same in the future, it is common to at a certain stage in life. However, when my brother told me about the anti-depressants he had received from the doctor, it made me think. He described the effects of the pills; nausea, a strange light-headed feeling, then a weird buzz, where eventually you end up just not feeling negative. To me, this sounds kinda similar to some illegal drugs and caused me to ask my brother if he would ever try acid again, having done so once many years before. After initially laughing at the suggestion and saying that acid was the last thing he needed he has actually come round to the idea in a big way and it makes sense. Acid helps one to look at existing problems in a new and constructive way, accept flaws in life and oneself as natural and inevitable and to appreciate the simple beauty of all life. These all sound like pretty good strategies for dealing with depression to me. Again, my bro is not a weed smoker, but the dead end the depression put him in made him acquire a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude with that too and he started having the odd spliff with myself and found that it took the edge off the depression and also allowed his mind to relax and think without the pressure of insecurity. We haven’t planned the trip yet, but I hope to do a glorious summer one with my bro and hopefully it will be a really big positive revelation for him. He said to me that he wants to be in a good mindset before he does it which I agreed with, but I reminded him that his mindset was all up to him. Again, this is why acid is good for treating depression, it allows one to realise their own agency and control in life. Even just talking about alternative modes of thought and experience seemed to broaden and brighten my brother’s outlook. My bro’s story just proves to me even more that LSD and other drugs should be legalised or atleast de-criminalised because the treatment doctors provide is either unsuitable or is trying to mimic the effects of drugs anyway. It also makes sense that when my brother began to feel like he had gotten trapped and stale in the repetitious nature of life, a drug that gives the soul a spring clean would appeal. This also reinforces the idea that LSD itself seems to have a natural connection and applicability to human cognitive understanding that is very important. Drugs like coke may be bottomless in the desire they create for more, taken just to want more, but acid is bottomless in its inspirational potential.

We still look for order, meaning and logic whilst on drugs, just in a different conception; we aren’t necessarily free on acid, we’re still the same machines computing the same data, but in a new way. Acid can make the old conventions we live by seem silly, but it does not always provide alternatives. The world view acid gives is ultimately unknown, it is elusive, it teases supple minds and leads us up circular pathways because ultimately, this is the nature of existence and acid (good as it is) is not going to change this. To me, this makes me see acid as a tool I can use in my future life to develop my identity (which comprises superficial and more deep-rooted elements) but not something that will provide answers. Personal perception is all, this is what acid says to me; ‘you are malleable, change, adapt, make the world easier on yourself – enjoy it mate, rather than chasing the lost city acid teases you with, because you’ll never get there’. Acid is regulation of the self, the BB contestant vs. acid vet example I used earlier shows the dangers of a reckless lack of self-analysis which allows ingrained, unexamined (often illogical) personality traits to run amuck for years and finally become completely assimilated vs. a complete gutting of one’s mental landscape leaving it empty, formless.

I think acid taps into areas of our brain that can meld feelings of creativity and flux with concepts of order, logic and harmony – chaos and order. This is why those who have studied philosophy have been said to get more out of acid immediately. I am a former philosophy student myself. It is a way of thinking, a logical thought tool – this is why any argument requires a valid premise and a clear definition to be taken seriously, words are weighted with meaning, not like an opinion piece or restaurant review; it is an attempt at semantic mathematics. This way of thinking requires one to 1) think of topics/concepts in their largest perceivable context and 2) pursue conclusions free from the influence of environmental factors on thinking. In this sense this is why LSD thinking and the philosophical method are so similar. LSD opens the mind up to see situations or ideas from a new angle in a bigger picture and in doing so, removes pre-conceived ideas of truth and understanding to facilitate this process.

However, just as with LSD, this thinking can be liberating and debilitating. My experience of philosophy was exactly like this; I felt free to ditch certain prejudicial or silly opinions I had held onto over the years (like believing in God) and it gave me the confidence to question bigger assumptions in the world and in my own life. Also, when debating with people, I found it easier to step back, be objective and analyse their points more logically, often making for much better arguments from myself. However, just as with acid, initially this feeling of being an epistemological nomad was comforting because I felt I had shed certain ignorant ways of doing things, I had learnt something, but the same problem of nihilism crept in again. Soon I was analysing everything philosophically and trying to catch people out – ever vigilant in case their argument didn’t fully stack up. Moreover, I had to start dispensing with some of my own opinions or having to over-correct sentences at the moment of utterance if they assumed too much. While this is a good method for winning arguments, it isn’t very fun and even the open-minded can find it wearing. Plus, even with the logical analysis approach, it won’t always be successful because of course no one knows everything, which is also partly the dichotomy in philosophical discourse – it was created as a logical, scientific method for explaining the unexplainable. To me, acid presents the same teasing possibility – the possibility of crazy massive answers when what it boils down to understands the opposite – the basic values in oneself and how to augment them to find happiness (assuming happiness is the aim of most people).

Timothy Leary said you’ve got to do acid every weekend and smoke weed every day to keep sane. Leary said he was living the life of another statistic, over the hill with less and less creativity, until he took acid. But what is the alternative? Do drugs all the time? I have to now re-evaluate odd people I’ve met in the past, what they were saying wasn’t necessarily weird now I think about it, those late-night crazy chats in bars or raves, now I see those who are called mad as the sane ones.

My conclusion is that there is a concentration on immediacy and easy-gratification in our culture and this is the case with drugs too. Why is cocaine far more popular than LSD? Because it enables one to feel physically stimulated, but within the realms of reality and within societal convention to a point; someone coked up is just more hyper or chatty or adventurous, it puts a sheen on your view of reality. Acid, however, opens up so many possibilities people are sometimes not sure what has happened to them because there is nothing to weigh the experience against, and hence they prefer drugs that enhance existing desires/ambitions, rather than open up areas with no easy answers. This is why I firmly believe in taking more acid until one becomes more lucid and comfortable and able to analyse the self and the world. This can be used for many projects – recreation, dealing with trauma, working on creative or academic solutions etc. These things all represent time, subtlety, patience, understanding; things modern people don’t have time for. This is why acid is often misunderstood as a drug, so often the more salacious effects are focused on in popular culture that we as a society have lost sight of its serious potential. Of course any good cosmonaut knows that more research should be done with acid and is increasingly being done, but would be far more effective and prolific when public perception is changed too. LSD is an integral part of the human experience and to date, to my knowledge, no one who has tried it has seriously recommended it be made illegal or criticised it, doesn’t that tell us all something? Or does it? It’s up to your own perception my friend, but I tell you what, it made me feel fucking great and anytime you feel yourself sleepwalking into a life of passivity, monotony, drudgery, unhappiness, conventionality, insincerity or banality just remember, you’ve got a choice; you can be brave and you can ignore the doubters and be free, not just with LSD but with the philosophy it encourages too.

Whether it is the perceived effect acid has or not, I feel that from now on I will never get as indignant about things as I used to, and as long as I can keep childish enthusiasm for things in spite of this, that’s okay. For me, a lot of negative or (formerly) conspiratorial notions I had about this whole being human thing have been confirmed by acid, but that’s always been in me, as long as I can remember. That that part of me may never be satisfied or quelled and I should look instead to the possibility and suggestibility acid- thinking creates, and hopefully life can be that little bit less harsh and that little bit more enjoyable in the coming years. Also, it has freshened my creativity and encouraged to remember the joy of playing an instrument and composing music, the whole process feeling fresh. I don’t think I need to end on a Bill Hicks quote or anything – you only live once, try it.

lsd acid psychedelic trippy meaning

lsd lysergic acid psychedelic trippy meaning
Nihilism & Loss of Meaning

LSD is clearly not a drug for everyone, it is unwieldy and requires a certain mental attitude at the outset of ingestion to enjoy its properties fully. However, when I first took it, I didn’t really have any idea what it would do (!). My research prior to taking acid was zero. Of course I had a cultural history of it in my head, knowing major figures in the drug’s subculture; The Beatles, Aldous Huxley, 1960s groups etc. I was also aware of the stereotypical stories about its effects and all the ‘hippy’ and ‘spiritual’ connections applied to it. Having said this, it’s only now that I’m beginning to understand the drug properly, which is exciting but also worrying.

So, why isn’t everyone taking or discussing LSD if people like myself feel the need to document the experience, am I wildly different to others? No, I believe this is partly down to ingrained social attitudes and drugs laws, as well as a lack of education about the drug and research in to it. Being such a limitless and bizarre place, the human mind is not always an attractive area of study for scientists or governments, not as appealing as something physical, easy, like strength for example. What I’m saying is, even if society were to test and investigate the many positive applications LSD has and could have, it would require labyrinthine research and time and investment because its effect on the human mind is so sprawling and subjective. Sure, governments invest in mind-control (which they’ve unsuccessfully tried with LSD), but that is subtly different, and means treating the drug and the test subject like a means to an end, rather than a being of potential. Regardless of the status-quo’s stance against the drug and laws against it, I genuinely believe that more research is not done on LSD because ultimately it is a mystery. Even the great thinkers who have taken it and written on it draw conclusions that although insightful always seem to shine the torch on one element, thus leaving others in the dark. Put simply, depending on who you ask, an LSD conversation could really end up on any topic.

My friend John who created this page was telling me about John Lennon’s comment that at the height of his LSD use, he began to feel a complete death of ego. Further to this, Lennon said that after a few years of not taking the drug so extensively he began to feel like himself again, replete with all the idiosyncrasies and cantankerous qualities that had made him an individual in the first place. Moreover, my friend mentioned some veteran trippers he had spoken to, who seemed to have suffered a sort of ego-death also. He said they seemed fairly aloof and vague when answering questions on their LSD experiences, nowhere near the level of philosophical debate the experience had sparked in my friend and I. Obviously this is just speculation, but this could suggest that the liberation acid provides from self-consciousness could boil over into losing a sense of one’s self, which I have already alluded to in this memoir previously. If these vets have nothing to say, why are they doing acid so often? Why do they like it? What do they think about? This really intrigues me because acid is not like beer, you don’t take it merely to get inebriated – when tripping you can’t help but think, although perhaps a trip can become more pedestrian and beer like after taking many tabs. For me personally, at times my relationships have been skewed by acid thinking. I have felt very distant and lonely in my outlook, distant from my parents and old friends. Something has changed – become less real and simultaneously more real – e.g. the everyday conversations about the weather take on new disturbing meanings because I’m analysing the human interaction taking place rather than just going with the flow. Obviously, I have talked to some people about the experience explicitly in a relaxed way, but at the end of the conversation (although they’ve been attentive) the listener seems to switch back to auto-pilot while I’m left still reeling with concepts in my head. Again though, perhaps this existential gulf in human empathy has always been in our communication, regardless of drugs, and it’s just perception. This time though, it feels more lonely, like what I’m dealing with will forever be a source of personal madness and not alleviated by love or understanding. However, we must remember that this is all perception and acid is not a mind in itself but a reflection of our own. Basically, I feel there is a level of mundane social interaction I barely tolerated before, but now I’ll only meet with grunts.

Personally I’ve had to talk about it because I’ve been ready to explode at times. I myself have definitely felt I have partly forgotten older ways of being and have seen myself in a more pluralistic manner, but I have also tried to remember the things I enjoy, specific things I like. Put simply, if you look at everything in an objective unbiased manner, it can create a feeling of meaninglessness; nothing is above anything else in importance or differentiation. For me personally, this has turned into nihilism at times. Again, this could be blamed on a number of other factors in my life specifically, not just acid philosophy, but this kind of thinking has felt tripish. For example, I have increasingly started to have moments in conversation when interest seems to leave my mind immediately, and the context I’m existing in seems hollow or ridiculous – without gravity or importance. Of course, if this slips into ones’ perception of everything it can become debilitating, for example; reading any book or watching any film or doing anything and thinking there’s no point because it represents a mere fragment of existence and will in time be forgotten absolutely like myself. Now, this isn’t necessarily untrue, but that doesn’t mean thinking that way will make you happy either.

Recently, my friends and I played golf, I hadn’t played for years and neither had they. As we ambled around the pitch-and-putt course it really felt good to be focused on something so human, so eccentric – the clubs, the little balls and scorecards, the terms -bogey, over-par, birdie etc. something that represented the micro, not the macro – staring down at the tee, not up at the clouds for once. This reminded me that to get through life I couldn’t just expand my mind indefinitely, we can only comprehend so much and we must still live in the physical world. Sure, I could have questioned the meaning of the golf, putting the ball in the hole will change nothing for example, but I never even thought about it – I just enjoyed it. Acid reminds us to enjoy the simple pleasures also and this is the balance we must strike. My enjoyment of golf does not mean I advocate submitting to every micro-element of conventional society to be happy either, indeed, I still smoked a couple of joints before I picked up a club. I see the two extremes of this area manifested at the one end with a Big Brother contestant (ultra-reality) and at the other with an acid veteran (dead-reality) similar to the ones John talked to. The BB contestant reacts with OTT, caricatured, predictable emotional reactions to the slightest social or atmospheric happenings, whereas the LSD vet reacts to nothing because nothing is meaningful, no emotions are conjured, as if the top has been blown off the marquee and nothing is big enough to fill the hole. I think common LSD fuelled themes like circularity and seeing two sides to everything certainly seem to support the idea of balance, which is difficult to achieve.

Considering how much more there is left to learn about LSD, I feel the need to do a lot more of it, discover, learn to control it and try and apply it in different ways to expanding my mind further as a method of self-development. However, I do not want to turn into a soulless veteran, not even knowing or being able to articulate what they experience anymore as the drug has become so all-encompassing.