Rapt attention

Monday, March 6, 2023

Twenty first century trip


© Robert Sommers 2023

The headlines are everywhere. Psychedelic drugs are making a big comeback. 

I have mixed feelings and a little trepidation about the inchoate hallucinogenic renaissance. True, they have been used for as long as man's existence, from ergot in ancient Greece to Iboga in Gabon, with many positive results. But they are certainly not for everyone and there are many people whose fragile psyche's were not helped by their usage. For every fifty whose ethos was bathed and transformed in holy fire there were a few unfortunate people who were left on the side of the road as charcoal husks.

The term psychedelic was invented by the psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond during written correspondence with author Aldous Huxley and presented to the New York Academy of Sciences by Osmond in 1957. It is derived from the Greek words ψυχή psychḗ 'soul, mind' and δηλείν dēleín 'to manifest', which combined means something like "mind manifesting." 

I used to be a true believer, was hoping someone would dump bomber loads of purple microdot over warzones in Iraq and the Balkans, thought we could stop the sins of mankind if people just ventured inside a little bit. Now I am not so sure. 

Drugs can't save the world, only people can. For every Ram Dass and Timothy Leary, there is also a Manson waiting somewhere in the dark wings and I can see how easily people can be influenced. What if the nazis and alt-right start tripping, what happens then?

I started dosing at a very young age, too young in fact. My father and his wife were away in Vegas for a three day weekend when I first ingested the super strong 500 microgram orange sunshine tablet. I was with a girl, Bobbie J., and we were at a Country Joe, Lee Michaels concert.

The experience was one of incredible highs and terrifying descents. I lost my balance and sea legs, returning home I remember cold calling people in the white pages of the phone book trying to find somebody to help me. Somehow, believe it or not, I did. In an act of incredible providence, a kind soul who had actually tripped before, talked me down. A stranger. I was twelve years old, believe it or not. The year was 1970. Took three full days to recover.

© Rick Griffin

In the ensuing decade and a half I went back to the well a bunch. Mescaline, mushrooms, peyote and acid, I never ventured into the quote unquote "hard drugs" because the hallucinogens were like a drink of the everlasting water and they were all encompassing. One could temporarily commune with the creator. It was the nicest, warmest bath.

Out of all of the drugs, peyote was by far the best for me, the most colorful and spiritually grounded. My last peyote trip was in 1975. Beautiful memories of turquoise and coral remain etched in my mind from that particular excursion.

It wasn't always easy. Being in a psychedelic state is like ingesting truth serum and sometimes the things you see about yourself and your world are not entirely pleasant. But there were definite truths and epiphanies to be gained and I consider the doses I took to be very instrumental in me becoming the person I am. 

For some people it was cheap Saturday night entertainment, it was never that for me. I wanted to get high and touch the farthest reaches of the universe. I ventured out a lot.

And when I learned my lessons from the experience I moved on. I have maybe tripped twice in the last twenty years, checking in to see what I had missed, if anything. I realized that for me, such excursions were no longer required. 

I last checked in three years ago November. I took a microdose of mushroom the day I shot the bobcat coming out of the old San Jacinto River. Now, it is a curious thing. I have never before taken a picture of a wild cat in nature and this one crawled right out of a creek, not ten feet away.

I have to ask myself, what was it about my consciousness that day that allowed this to happen, if it was indeed a causal occurrence and not entirely random? 

I saw an interview with the Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann, an ardent advocate of microdosing before performing music. He said that psilocybin put him in a state where he stopped judging. I understand that, in the context of my meeting with the cat. Barriers definitely drop. You listen more attentively.

My experience with the bobcat did not cause me to go back and try to recreate the experience, as good as it was. The Chinese caution against "importuning the sages" and continually drawing from the same well. That is piggish, you learn your lesson and move on.

I think today's tripsters face a very different environment from what I faced as a youth. The late sixties and early seventies were still the last gasps of the flower generation. Love and peace was a definite part of the psychedelic equation in a way that does not exist in today's nasty and fractured world. We were supported. There were safe zones back then and beautiful people around to help if you veered off the path. 

Few of my old comrades are still tripping. Some still enjoy it. If the world decides it is time to get high again, I guess that I will be all in, even if I stay on the sidelines and merely cheer.


Blue Heron said...

One of the most enlightening times growing up with sunshine and you, and Midnight Munchies! A fantastic time indeed! 🤗


Blue Heron said...

We had some wonderful times, to be sure. Tripping at Montauk was very fun!

Blue Heron said...

robert-your rap on psychedelics is the best i’ve ever heard and parallels mine so much-
truly ours was a golden era never to be repeated. and i no longer visit augmented.