I have had four NDE's. Three of these death trips were the result of some form of physical trauma. However, I’d be remiss should I avoid the topic of mind expanding drugs, because in one of my experiences, this was the route taken.
The 60’s were the backdrop for my first NDE. The debauchery of Viet Nam, the injustices of the world, and my inherent desire to participate in a productive change for the better seemed to take on a life of it’s own. Not all hippies were of this mindset. For many, it was an excuse to lurch into the drug, sex, and rock scene in a reckless, uninhibited manner. Merely runnin’ wild for it’s own sake didn’t interest me because it felt “less than”...it felt like a distraction. I realized, early on, this was a crucial period in planetary history and would impact everyone’s life story forever more. I was deadly serious, knowing far too many guys coming back from Asia in body bags and hearing far too many lies from public officials to take it any other way. When I made the decision to experiment with mind-expanding drugs, it was a conscious act and I viewed it as sacred.
Don’t let anybody fool ya, hallucinogenics have their place. The reason they’re outlawed is because they are unpredictable and those interested in maintaining the status quo do not appreciate unpredictability. If you doubt these words, take a look at your cyber spam (right now) and note how often you get hucked by the manufacturers of Prozac, Zoloft, or Xanax. These legal, easily accessible, and overly prescribed pharmaceuticals are openly distributed because they contribute to numbing the feelings of the man behind the curtain rather than revealing them.
Mind expanders don’t work like this. They tend to play peek-a-boo beneath the surface of things, engendering an examination of the priorities by which one’s lived their life. Sometimes, these revelations come far too fast and furious, leading to unintegrated concepts and resulting in subjective chaos for the psychedelic warrior trying to actively incorporate a new world view in place of the closed loop perspectives that have been shattered. Like Dorothy said, “Toto, we ain’t in Kansas anymore.” True, vision herbs have been utilized from the dawn of philosophical time for exactly this purpose and have been found to broaden the aspirant’s horizons. Yet, there was acceptance, rather than persecution, from the indigenous elders who accompanied the cosmic voyager through some of the pitfalls buried deeply within the psyche.
Taking a magic mushroom can flip a person so far outside our antiquated paradigm it can become extremely difficult to ground the new found perspectives from within. Too much, too quick, without any guidance in weeding out the nonessentials can be problematic. On the other hand, an individual may, simply, skim over any potential drawbacks and move directly into ecstatic, life enhancing realms of consciousness which, without the use of power plants, would have been inaccessible during their lifetime. It’s a crapshoot that, inevitably, results in one questioning the authority of their personal reality and therein lies the “iffy” give and take of this venue’s accelerated confrontation of our issues. There’s a lotta “what ifs” out there that seldom go without some level of overwhelm and, in many cases, a component of the malady I reference as Post Traumatic Death Disorder.
The flower children of the 60’s were brought up with Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver. I was raised with John Wayne, rather than John Bradshaw, and plenty of platitudes were ripe for the pickin.’ The difficulties of disentangling from the throes of ingrained dysfunctionality have been agonizing for me. These issues reared their ugly heads as part of the Life Recall Protocol during my initial NDE, giving an unjustified angst to the death process which, until understood, haunted me for years. Nowhere was to be found the plethora of self help books that abound today, offering guidance to those who’ve become personally reflective enough to seek out objectifying insight for their subjectively confusing upbringings. Denial and/or shame based, these hereditary control mechanisms do not merely go away. They linger for a lifetime unless challenged, and follow one thru the Life Recall corridors of the death trip.
Prior to taking mind-unmasking drugs, I came to the conclusion my viewpoint was founded on slanted, socially engineered justifications. I learned conventional wisdom, wasn’t...and, from cradle to Cronkite, and pulpit to politician, I’d been programmed by an unacceptably insane worldview. War, pollution, genocide, corporate greed, and a dog eat dog mentality seemed the norm. Based on my observations of the human dilemma, embracing such rationalizations didn’t make much sense. I decided there was little to lose by rolling the dice with alternative dimensions because, from my perspective, the world couldn’t get more messed up than it already was. I hoped to get an insight into what made me tick and beat the clock that appeared to be running out...for all of us. I’d already served tenure as a guinea pig for the Department of Defense and Atomic Energy Commission by being the “voluntary” recipient of Human Radiation Experiments conducted by the U.S. Government in the 1950’s. Maybe my railing against authority had something to do with a letter that arrived from these illustrious institutions, indicating they mighta jeopardized the long-term health of the children who’d been bombarded by their nuclear toys. Nevertheless, in my wayward youth, I took hallucinogenics and the results altered my life forever thereafter.
For the record, whether they are naturally occurring or manufactured in a college chemistry lab, I’m neither for or against hallucinogenic drugs. To be sure, they are unpredictable... and that’s what’s makes ‘em dangerous. Imagine taking a substance that awakens you to your innermost feelings. What if these feelings are not in keeping with the party line and the only way to continue living in the prescribed manner is denial...or rockin’ the communal boat and, possibly, capsizing it? Furthermore, it’s just as plausible watching Joseph Campbell on a PBS fundraiser may very well be more productive than peyote. Each to their own and it all works out in the wash.
Therefore, the following experiences must be prefaced with a word of caution for any who would choose this doorway and the Russian roulette of rapidly expanding awareness. Expect glaring access to the games people play, (including yourself) and the fright of coming face to face with inner demons, as well as wondrous worlds which reside far beyond ours. Such an undertaking should be approached earnestly and with reverence. In the realm of mind-altering drugs, it’s always a good idea to remember it’s not much different than being like a kid in a tinderbox…with matches. Our lives are built upon “agreements” of what is, and what isn’t, real. When burnin’ down the house of cards we base our presumptuousness upon, it wouldn’t hurt to be cognizant of one’s priorities.
With that said, I’ve decided to include the first thing I ever wrote while learning to type and use a computer in the mid 1990s. Eventually, the jest of the following experience was to propel me into my first NDE in 1972. Whatever my contributions might be to a greater understanding of the NDE, they would be incomplete without this level of candor and, thus, I write.
In the summer of 1971 I had my first hallucinogenic experience. I was but a babe in the woods, walking the shoreline of Life. The setting was Wako Dunes, a large tract of sandy beach, on the Great Lake Michigan. I was with my dear friend Steve Bringle who, being nicknamed The Whale, was my hometown’s first hippie with a heart. That day, the two of us shared synthetic hits of mescaline manufactured by postgraduate chemistry majors at the University of Michigan.
I’d thought it better to hold off on taking mind unmasking drugs for years. I felt it would be more prudent to see what long term effects they’d have on the people I knew who’d been experimenting with them since the mid sixty’s. Frankly, the idea a mind is a terrible thing to waste wasn’t lost on me, and, I figured, there were plenty of sacrificial lambs who seemed more than willing to risk fryin’ their brain cells.
I’d watched others taking “this, that or the other thing,” going to parties or rock concerts and discussing how they’d immersed themselves in the events attended. Terminology like, ”I got really high man” or “all fucked up” seemed to minimize what I thought these accelerators had to offer. Simple observation indicated that, for many, these enhancers were just another way to get drunk. I felt this defeated the purpose for which they were intended and waited my turn of the wheel and toss of the dice.
My decision to ingest hallucinogenics was based on the curiosity derived from reading several philosophical books suggesting the use of these substances as facilitators of insight. Whether Aldous Huxley, Tim Leary, or tribal shaman from the Amazonian rain forest, I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about. I longed to take a magic substance and be smarter. I wanted to look further into the nature of Life, hoping for an understanding of this thing called Reality. I sought wisdom...and The Whale did too.
I certainly did not ingest mescaline because I wanted to play with a new toy. I was studious and attentive, taking responsibility in the selection of a natural setting, intent on making the most of this experience in hopes of becoming a better person. I was apprehensive, concerned I might freak out and return from my trip shaken by what I might see. I appreciated the company of Steve who’d been there, done that and was always ready to ride. Determined to confront these fears on this warm summer morning, we began.
The effects were subtle at first. A little uneasiness in the stomach as the substance began hitting my bloodstream, yet manageable. It was a gradual climb, accentuated with a subtle awareness of my ability to see more colors, hear more sounds, feel more the sun’s rays on my body and smell more succinctly the scented waters of this great lake.
Steve and I walked far away from the company of others and sat undisturbed on the edge of the surf. We talked about the way things seemed to be. We discussed our concerns about the state of world affairs, the Nam War, pollution, the need for some type of global change that would pull us all from the brink. We spoke of peace, love, and dreams of better days and how, perhaps, with a more expanded awareness brought on by hallucinogenics, problems that seemed insurmountable could be understood and beneficially resolved. We dreamed Dreams. We imagined ourselves to be pioneers, willing to take a step towards helping make the world a better place. We were young, idealistic and nothing I knew up to that point in my life could have prepared me for what was to follow.
We sat hour upon hour, feeling the water lap against our feet and appreciating the wonders, the beauty surrounding us. The sun, the sky, the water...the All of It. While in this enhanced state, I took a grain of sand from the beach and began to gaze upon it. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. The mescaline gave my eyes the ability to focus at a magnified level. It was as if I were able to examine this minuscule quartz granule under a 50x microscope and each crevice, every shade and shadow, comprised a degree of delicacy I’d never known before. We shared this new visual facility and by exploring it’s spellbinding grandeur, were transported into another world...a different way of lookin’ at things.
Imagine if the scope of the Grand Canyon was to be found within a grain of sand and became visible in the twinkling of an eye. The magnificence was ours for the lookin’ and all the wonder of the Whale and myself, in unioned appreciation, the key. With each twist and turn, we changed our viewpoints’ vantage to yet another area as glorious as the one before. It was as if we were giants, great gods, who were able to twist and turn worlds within worlds as easily, as surely, as if we held All of nature’s treasure chest in our fingertips.
So powerful, so thankful for these revelations, we realized we could look at this singular gem forever and still not see it all. It was uniquely beautiful, enchantingly communal. By realizing that within this sand stone was an “eternity of beauty,” I wondered about the “beauty of eternity.”
And, with the mere inquisitiveness of this thought, my head became a puppet on a string, pulled upward and turned by some Master Marionette whose Intent was of allowing me an answer to my query. My focus shifted and, suddenly, I was looking at mile after mile of open beach. The thought exploded-imploded within me, “If I feel as I do about this grain of sand, then what of All This?”
Spontaneously, the epiphany snapped (synaped/synched?) me straight...the effects of the drug had run it’s course and the trip, instantaneously, was over. Later, I was to learn, it had only begun.