In Tripping, Charles Hayes has gathered fifty narratives about unforgettable psychedelic experiences from an international array of subjects representing all walks of liferespectable Baby Boomers, aging hippies, young ravers, and accomplished writers such as John Perry Barlow, Anne Waldman, Robert Charles Wilson, Paul Devereux, and Tim Page. Taking a balanced, objective approach, the book depicts a broad spectrum of altered states, from the sublime to the terrifying. Hayes's supplemental essays provide a synopsis of the history and culture of psychedelics and a discussion of the kinetics of tripping. Specially featured is an interview with the late Terence McKenna, who was perhaps the preeminent psychedelic spokesperson of our time. A storehouse of astonishing, often otherworldly tales, Tripping is a compendium of forbidden memories that enables readers to trip vicariously or compare notes on their own experiences.
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One of the things that prompted this book was the tale of a real Celt of a fellow I knew who worked as a pressman in the inky bowels of one of New York City's dailies, where the paper was printed. One night at a smoky, old-time saloon for "newspapermen," he relayed how he'd taken acid one evening and witnessed his own conception by way of catching his parents in the act of making him. There they were on the living-room sofa, enjoined at the loins, making tender love in the supple skins they wore the night they brought him into this world. He said that he'd just sat there and wept at the shuddering beauty of the scene, the roseate gleam on the lovers' bodies, the sweet desire that moved them to merge so moistly and meaningfully.
The story amazed me. It was as if he'd been granted a glimpse of his own genesis through a sort of umbilical telescope, a once-in-a-lifetime cruise through the sap of the family tree. Still, I wondered about the rules that govern such screenings. "Of course, you're really not supposed to see these things," I thought. It must have been the action of some powerful agent that had pulled some strings to broadcast such a sacred moment.
Visions of this sort are naturally considered forbidden, a violation of the sanctity of parental privacy, akin to unveiling the face of Jehovah Himself -- not to mention the whole rap sheet of Oedipal transgressions inherent in peeking through the keyhole of your parents' love chamber when they're getting it on. It's just not done. If you get caught, you're in trouble, right? But who was there to catch him? Only his conscience, perhaps, but he didn't feel guilty about what he was seeing. Far from it. He was so overcome with joy and tenderness -- and gratitude for being hatched in such a loving, orgasmic reverie -- that he was weeping for the sheer conjugal majesty of it all.
I wondered, "Is there a legitimate spiritual, psychological or emotional purpose for his being shown this vision? Will he be a better person for having spied on his parents in the act of coitus, even if they were doing it to beget him?" Well, spying may not be the word for this, but the sort of act he'd just taken in is not your standard spectator sport. Should his peeping be chalked up to chemical tomfoolery and summarily tossed back into the iridescent spume of the psychedelic sea as so much indigestible Freudian detritus?
Other questions arose. Could there have been any authenticity to the vision? Could it actually have occurred the way he saw it? Or was it a sort of multimedia Jungian-style merging of the yin and yang hemispheres of his subconscious into one orgone-suffused ball of wholesome regenerative energy by which he effectively gave birth to himself? Clearly, the vision had worked its "intended" effect. He was in total rapture and later considered the vision a grace. Still, I wondered, "Isn't there a damn good reason for the erection of the curtain he'd peeked through? And why was he allowed to part the curtain? What made him special? Was it who he was or what he ate? How do you get hold of the metaphysical View Master that holds such phantasmal celluloid in its image wheels? Is it conceivable that a psychoactive drug could be sanctioned for such purposes by the powers that govern human consciousness and our relations with our progenitors?"
The (generic) psychedelic, of course, can also open the hatch at the other end of a life span, when the wick first licked by the flame of creation finally wavers, flickers down, and poof! -- blows out altogether. According to Terence McKenna, perhaps the world's leading exponent of psychedelic consciousness (who, sadly, died of a brain tumor when this book was in production), psychedelic states anticipate the dying process, which can be an inward journey to explore celestial, paradisal, and infernal realms. In revealing that the emperor wears no clothes and that things fall apart, the psychedelic experience decrypts the death bound into all things.
Death is therefore a succinct term for the process of undoing that all our doings must and do lead. Showing us brief, resonant images of aging and decay (e.g., one's own mug on that of a car-crash victim lying on the road, a hallucination one tripper reported to me), and dissolving the boundaries that separate us from the knowledge of life in the next room (the next skin, the next eon, the next incarnation…), the psychedelic is most surely concerned with death, with endings that, if we could only see, become beginnings in other forms.
When the psychedelic first rocked me in my early twenties with shimmering new sensibilities that shook my petty mortal concerns like so many scales from my skin, it struck me that I was being offered a friendly glimpse into the grave. For the first time I had the distinct notion that death was not some stationary finish line or exit door off in the hopefully distant future, but a body of revelation that even now arced back toward the beginning, reaching back to inform, to ready, to greet and to welcome. I saw that my own death could be a lyric memory, that the circular river of time was like a gently flowing menstrual stream from the mind of God, a pregnancy with death the child.
Naturally, there are more terrifying guises of death that the psychedelic can conjure, but these are likely tied to the latent guilt that knowledge of death is a sort of transgression -- along the lines of Jehovah's grave warning that no mortal shall ever see His face. In the frightfully ratiocinative short story by the pre-revolutionary Russian writer Leonid Andreyev, after Lazarus has a taste of the Other World, the salt in this one loses its savor. In the film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is forbidden to open his eyes to behold the power and mystery of Creation unleashed when the Ark of the Covenant is unduly sprung open by the Nazis. There is invariably at least one story in each of the world's mythologies that admonishes us not to poke around in such realms or crowd the Creator Himself.
Perhaps there are some cosmological scenes that are set off limits to human awareness by the powers of the universe, authorities senior by far to those of family and state. There could be good reason to keep a lid on the cask that holds the mysteries of the Great Beyond, but then again, maybe that's too much to ask of mere mortals. If such a cache can be found, perhaps we owe it to ourselves to open it and have a look. If the voices of the Sirens are so sweet, can't we hear just a verse or two? Maybe the force that forbids us is only fear and not some imperative moral authority after all.
In the belief that glimpses into alternative realities can shed light on this one, and that no encounter with the ineffable is so otherworldly as to be justly forbidden or void of some correlative (if not yet determined) meaning for this life, I set out in 1994 to document psychedelic experiences that were transformational, awe provoking, or otherwise indelible to their subjects. After several years spent digging up willing voices for the project in locations across the globe, and then transcribing their stories, the product of my quest is the compilation of narratives that comprises this book.
My intent in assembling these unusual, often unsettling tales is to create a work not so much of literature but one of document. By rendering into print the astonishing phenomena of psychedelic drugs - as well as their impact on the human psyche - they can be rescued from the stream of ephemera, dried off in the prosaic light of reading lamps, and then ruminated over by a larger population of fellow and vicarious travelers.
The contents of this book are in many ways the stuff of dreams, in this case chemically-induced ones: phantasms seen with eyes that were opened by a foreign agent, a force often so subversive as to undermine one's faith in the reality of things as they generally appear. If dreams conjured in sleep should have any meaning for those awakened by them, then these gathered here, spun out of some keen yet alien wakefulness, might have even more. \ \
Table of ContentsTrippingNote to the Reader
Part I: Introduction
The Psychedelic (in) Society: A Brief Cultural History of Tripping
Basic Features of the Psychedelic Experience
Methodology and Perspectives Used in the Making of This Book
Part II: The Narratives
Aaron: Trawling the ghost stream
Alice Dee: Highway to the sky: The road seen only by the dreamer
Anne Waldman: Point and Click: Icons in the window to the ancestral manse
Brendan: Pealing Faces
Bruce Eisner: Dazed in the desert at the end of time
Carl: The wat of the world
Charles Hayes: Eat the moment (and other stories)
Charlie: That's when I realized I was out of my senses
Clark Heinrich: Heaven (and another story)
Daniel: I realized I was dead
Dennis: They don't show you all this on the top of the mountain just to destroy you on your way down
George: Saved by the belle (and other stories)
Gregory: Sinister toys and the Internet of souls
Henry Bass: Hallucinating the horror of sobriety
Herbie Greene: Ride the snake and break on through (or) Crashing the snake dance
Jack: The pinball machine I could play without feeding it coins
James: Hell's den and Pan's glen (and another story)
Jarl: An early absolution
Jason: The orgasm death dance (and other stories)
Jeremy: The schlomus: The price of a moment's doubt
John Perry Barlow: My first trip
Julian: An awakening from within
Kate Coleman: Then the emotions started happening
Keely Stahl: The menacing orgasm that almost melted me away
Keith: First communion with life
Kenny: How can I die if I'm not here? (and other stories)
Kevin: To either die or come
Lena: I've definitely been psychotic
Leonard Gibson: Portals of flame, petals of the lotus blossum
Leonard Mercado: Psychedelic terra firma
Malcolm: The Psychedelic is the Center
Marcel: Is this a trap or a welcome?
Mark: Sounding the black box of the subconscious
Mark Fischer: Over the spillway
Matthew S. Kent: Maha maya: The V in my path
Megan: A blink of rabbit fur
Paul Devereaux: Do I want to be seeing this?
Peter: Everything else was normal (and other stories)
Philip Cooper: The Cathedral of San Pedro the Divine
Reverend Marianne: The vision made it real (and other stories)
Robert Bell: I had a theory who I was (and another story)
Robert Charles Wilson: The Immigrant's landing
Ruth: The apostate's homecoming
Sarah: Our Lady of the Eastern Star
Stephen Kessler: The initiate
Steve Silberman: the organismic display monitor
Steven Martin Cohen: A thousand cruise missles pointed straight at my brain stem
Terry: Loosing the hounds of war
Tim Page: Memoirs of an acid-salved war photographer
Part III: A Conversion with Terance McKenna
Appendix: A Concise Index of Psychedelic Substances
Bibliography and Resources
What People are Saying About This
\ I couldn't stop dipping in and out of this juicy book.... Wow! What a contact \ high. (Spalding Gray, actor, author) \ \
\ This courageous book ...will captivate, inspire, caution and educate. (Rick Doblin, founder, Multidisplincary Association for Psychedelic Studies ) \
...the best collection of psychedelic traveler's tales that I have read in a \ long, long time. (Jay Stevens, author of Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream ) \ \