I grew up with an interest in Eastern philosophies from an early age and from time to time I would go through periods of more intense focus on the topic — but aside from some kind of faith that there was something more to life I never really experienced anything unusual. The reason for my interest was probably largely because I didn’t feel quite right in my environment. This led to me to spend several years in my youth in a pretty much constant haze of weed smoke, until a very strange evening which shaped an entire year and probably my entire life ever since.
Despite having occasionally used mushrooms in very large doses during the season, I had never tried LSD. The reason for my objection was that it was an unnatural purified substance taken out of nature and turned into something it wasn’t meant to be. I felt that was a strong enough reason to avoid it for many years. Eventually I ended up trying it and, finding I liked it, I probably went a bit overboard. Having said that, one significant feature of the unusual evening I wish to relate here is that whilst I had taken some LSD on that night, it was a very small amount. The following experience happened under the influence of only half a tab of LSD on a day when I would have built up quite a strong resistance to its effects.
I had often visited the house of a friend who was a believer in a particular Indian guru. Whenever I had been to his house he had a poster on the wall of the man’s face. I always considered it to be a nasty sneering photo, looking down upon me disapprovingly. On this evening I looked up at the photo and realised it was smiling at me. My assumption is that the acid in my system was altering my perceptions such that I could control the appearance of the photo so that the expression matched my mood. It was probable that the previous disapproving expression had merely been my own interpretation based upon my subconscious opinion of the way in which I conducted my life. I stared at the picture, surprised to see that it could look so radically different.
As I stared the photo began to look happier. I continued looking and it began to look ecstatic. As it did so the whole room began to glow with a golden light. I pulled myself back from this intensity and found that the face began to look disappointed. I tried to adjust my mood to thereby adjust the appearance of the photo. Every time I focussed in on it, the light in the room began to glow, and every time I pulled back it would return to normal. I found myself alternating between a higher and lower sensation, gradually pushing myself further and further towards some kind of perfect balance.
As I focussed on finding this perfect balance, I had a sensation in my spine that was acting in concert with the glowing vibrating feel of the light. I realised I was basically pushing my way into the balance between good and darkness, yin and yang, etc, the balance between the two extremes of duality. As I did so, the face in the photo communicated with me through facial expressions. My assumption is that I was communicating with my own inner self. That part of me that was more intuitive and was usually hidden far below the surface.
As I kept pushing I found the intensity kept increasing. I found that the actual effort of pushing kept me from attaining the goal I was trying to reach. I was trying to reach something that could only be reached by not trying to reach it. As you can expect this was tricky, but gradually as my mind became more accustomed to being in that central position, it became possible to relax and remain there. The sensation in my spine also continued to grow…I had been suffering from a back pain for several months and the pain felt like it was trying to fix itself. It felt like someone was pushing into the bottom of a vertebra with a corkscrew from inside the spinal column.
The intensity kept getting stronger and stronger. The further I reached towards this central perfection, the more the sensation of ecstasy grew and the more the light in the room glowed gold. Suddenly, at the moment when it all seemed as though the intensity could not grow any stronger, my back suddenly shifted. The pain that had been there for the last few months and which had been growing stronger throughout this entire experience was suddenly gone. I reached back to touch the spot where the pain had been, and, instead of the hard lump of the vertebra which I was used to feeling there, my back just felt soft. I pressed the spot and a wave of warmth rushed out from it in all directions. I didn’t dare push any harder in case I had done some kind of damage. The photo on the wall simply looked relaxed so I didn’t worry too much and decided to stop at that point.
Following that day, I found that I no longer needed to smoke the weed that had been supporting me for years. Everything seemed ok. I went about my life happily for several weeks and fixed a lot of issues in my life, getting myself a nice flat deep in the countryside and working on my painting. I now kept a picture of the same guru on my wall and he looked benevolently down at me each day. However, people couldn’t let me live in peace. Many of my friends were very strongly mixed up with weed smoking and they kept trying to draw me back in. Eventually I gave in and decided to have a smoke with a friend.
After the friend left me and I was sat alone in my flat, I looked at the picture of the guru on my wall and the face it showed was no longer benevolent, it was not even disapproving, it was furious. I was terrified to see such a distortion of my vision caused by a bit of smoke. It seemed every time I tried to look away, the anger in the face became so terrible that I was terrified to look away. I ended up staring this picture out for hours trying to bring it back to the state it had been in before. Trying to will my mind to find the equilibrium it had when the face had reflected peace within me.
Realising that I could somehow project my inner turmoils onto this picture of the guru, I began a process of meditating on this picture every day and realised that I did not need LSD, weed or any other drug to be able to alter the way in which I perceived the world. They may have intensified the control I had over my perceptions, but I found that as I had pushed myself further towards the central intensity between light and dark I had gained an increased appreciation of the sensations I could perceive. For the next year, I spent hours every day looking at the picture, using it as a mirror of my inner self. Always trying to reach into this balance and focus on growing this intensity of ecstasy.
Sometimes I might smoke a bit of weed, sometimes I might have some mushrooms, most days I simply sat in peace and quiet, focussing and concentrating. I found that the Lord’s prayer had an effect on the intensity of the light, not that I would consider myself a heavy Christian or anything. I tried some prayers from other religions too, they seemed to have similar effects. Each time I would reach a plateau where the intensity of the light surrounding me would match a sensation in my spine and gradually it was as though I was climbing a ladder in my back, with each vertebra being a new rung to climb. Each new vertebra would be slightly more difficult than the one before to pass, each would take weeks.
Each vertebra had a different character to the one before. It was as though I had to learn something new about myself each time, but, ultimately, the way to win past the barrier was to simply allow myself to get past it and relax into the experience without trying. All the time that I did this the picture would speak to me through facial expressions, giving me encouragement and pulling me further in. I do not think that the face was the guru himself, it was far more likely to represent something inside me or other things.
The reason I say other things is that one day things went wrong. Whether I was communicating with some darkness within myself or communicating with something other than me, the face started trying to tempt me. It began to offer me things. I tried to ignore it but it continued to try and draw me in towards whatever I wanted. Why was I pursuing this path of trying to find perfect balance between light and dark? It could give me anything I wanted. Eventually I said in my mind that I would only stop my efforts and accept what was being offered if… it doesn’t really matter what came after if, that would look too deeply into my inner motivations to write on the internet. It touched deeply to my core. I don’t think I was even accepting the offer, but whatever was reflected by the face considered that we had reached an agreement. It had accepted my counter offer.
Suddenly I felt everything plummeting within me. The sensation that I had spent the previous six months working towards drained instantly out of my spine. I had gradually built the feeling up vertebra by vertebra until it had been resting between my shoulder blades. Now it fell completely, there was no warmth, no light left. The face in the picture laughed at me. Suddenly the face didn’t even look like the face I had been meditating with for the previous half a year. Every line was thick and coarse, its eyes were pitch black, it had horns. The room I was in smelled, badly, of shit — just for a few moments and then it was gone, and I was alone — but this time I felt small. I felt cold and I felt lonely.
The next few days the world felt like a different place. I felt so much smaller than before and so much weaker. The world seemed more threatening. I tried meditating in front of the picture, and although the sensations still came, they were rising from the very bottom of my spine. This was a lot lower than they had been on that first night when I had taken the acid. I could push the intensity of the sensation up into my spine, but where each vertebra had been a rung on which I could hold myself before, they no longer worked that way. Each time I stopped concentrating, the feeling would drop back down to zero and I would have to start all over again.
Nevertheless I continued fighting to regain my position. I had nothing else to do. I felt like I had lost my soul and I wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Every time I tried to meditate, I would get a little bit higher. But every time, once I stopped concentrating, the sensation would drop to the bottom of my spine and I would have to begin again — a bit like the story of the spider in the cave.
Before I had only had to concentrate enough to reach the next vertebra and then I could relax having achieved a new level of intensity. This time I had to concentrate for longer and longer periods. I had to hold the intensity of light and maintain the perfect balance for longer than I had ever done before, but eventually I overcame the level where I had encountered the dark side of myself, or whatever else it had been. I managed to push the feeling of warmth up past my shoulder blades and attained a higher level in my spine. I let go of the intensity and this time it did not drop back to zero. I had filled myself with the energy again and it was not draining away. I had regained what I had lost.
After that, the next issue I had was that every time I hit a new plateau it had been accompanied by a shift in my spine. At one point, there was no spine. I reached my neck and the sensations wanted to push into my skull. It took weeks to realise it, but I was not dependent upon the physical shift in my spine. That was only a symptom of what was happening. There were still higher levels on which I could hold myself without any physical change. Once I realised this, I could push the level of intensity up into my skull.
The hardest point of all to overcome was when I reached the top of my head. When I had left my spine and entered my skull I had to overcome the fact that I could not feel the shift of vertebrae…when I reached the top of my head there was no physical part of my body beyond that level. In addition to this, the letting go that was necessary to get past this point was even more extreme than the letting go had been at any other point during the year. I could not latch onto the top of my head unless I let go completely. I had to find the perfect balance between trying to get there and not trying at all. I had to forget myself completely.
Ultimately I did manage it. It had taken me longer to pass than any other barrier on the way up. It felt like the top of my head had opened up. I was a column of energy reaching beyond. When this happened I saw a series of images flash before me. I saw the yin yang symbol. I saw a cherub blowing into a horn…I saw a globe made out of tessellating stars.
Afterwards my life returned to normal. I realized that I had pushed myself far beyond the place I was meant to have gone. There were reasons why I was who I was and I had a lot of answers to get from the way in which I lived my life. With that in mind, I began to live a normal life again. I no longer spent hours of every day meditating. I travelled, I went to university and got a really good degree. Things changed, but not hugely.
I often think of the things that great spiritual teachers tell us. We don’t need to seek enlightenment because we already have it, we need only live our life in the right way and everything will happen as it should. It certainly feels as though this is true. I no longer have the deep passion I used to have to understand the spiritual paths. Perhaps there is a whole world higher up to explore, perhaps there isn’t and it is all in their heads — it doesn’t really matter anymore. I think it is probable that they find it easy to say such things because they have already reached that level.
I worry far less than I used to, but at the same time it seems my worries are bigger. I used to worry about all sorts of mundane things that would bother me all the time. Now I worry about things that bother other people more. Although I have definitely stretched myself into someone different I think I have probably just dragged myself up to the same level as thousands of other people who are all just going through their daily lives without any knowledge that there are people who are at a lower level than them, or at a higher level. Those who have a specific interest in the spiritual path might realise these levels exist, but I am certain that there are ordinary people with no spiritual interest whatsoever who are at many different levels of mind and do not even realise that there are any other levels on which their spirits can reside.