Tuesday, after I got back from Edmonton, I went to see Tanya the tie-dyed witch.
I walked along thinking about how Spanish and Mandarin language media are going to become very prevalent, eventually surpassing English (population dynamics and the economics of media). The Chinese girl in front of me turned to her father and said, “Hola! That means, ‘hi’ in Spanish!”
Tanya did a series of card divinations for me from different decks. The cards work like Astrology does: By providing general good advice. There were, however, some fun coincidences.
First we tried out a set of “Russian Gypsy” cards that generate random patterns by making a 5×5 grid of cards, each with four half-pictures. You rotate the cards to match. All pictures produced are recorded.
The picture-halves seemed evenly distributed across the center of the board. We checked the first half — no matches.
I ended up with two images in the second half-spread: The Lily and The Gremlin, both inverted. A lack of faith. An inner demon. I wanted to interrogate this menacing spread, so I seven-shuffled the second pack, the traditional tarot, cut, and drew four queens.
One of the reasons I chose card divination is because I play poker. Cards already speak to me. There is nothing odd whatsoever about shuffling a deck, cutting, and drawing four of a kind. I’ve seen it happen several times. Still, especially with tarot, it’s improbable enough to feel liminal, like God is watching to make sure the probabilities all add up.
Female cards represent the superego. I drew four queens on the left of the spread, one guarding the five of coins (which is a kind of “worthwhile setback” card). Three jacks, and “Strength” — the id card — were on the right. The King of Coins — the ego card — separated the two halves.
Tanya pointed at a jack, “He represents you! Draw another card to see the future!”
I fan-spread the deck face-down in front of me draw-any-card-style and picked one somewhere around the middle with my left hand. I smote it face up across the Jack jack:
The Day of Judgment. The final trump. The land and sea give up the dead. All is revealed.
That was Tuesday, a week ago. In the second half of that week, on Thursday, I ate some mushrooms. Not a lot, about three or four times an active dose, the second half of the half ounce I started with. I smoked some weed first, on the theory that a calm attitude is best for psychedelics.
However, the paranoia got bad:
I don’t want to have a bad trip. Jesus, that would be awful, especially now that I can feel the mushrooms kicking in. Fuck, I don’t want to start hallucinating terrifying stuff like… Ah! Your paranoia is making you panic, and that’s making you think about not thinking about the Wendigo!
The thought of the bad trip created the reality. I called Dr. Z, who got me to take a couple of deep breaths and a glass of water, but suddenly there was more to heaven and earth, Horatio, than was dreamt of in his philosophy. I felt the imps circling.
I got up and left the building. I was off to see Oz, the wizard, the witch’s brother. Game programmer turned energy healer, he seemed like the person to help.
Once I was outside — time was of the essence — I grabbed my cell to call him. It buzzed in my hand, startling me:
One missed call: Oz Man
He phoned me as I was leaving the building to come see him, close to the moment that I decided to call him from outside.
We rendezvoused at the local Sevvie. I laughed the whole way there because of the ridiculousness of the phone call coincidence. The universe, I learned that day, has a fantastic sense of humor.
Oz Man: Hey Jack, what’s up?
Jack: I’ve eaten some mushrooms, and now my right arm is disconnected from my body.
Oz Man: [Tells me some new age stuff.] When you do that, after a while, you should feel…
Jack: Wow, my arm snapped back on and feels really warm, thanks!
Oz Man: It’s not supposed to work that fast. Hmm, try [says some more new age stuff].
I did what he suggested and suddenly snapped back to utter normalcy, the clouded sensorium was gone. Oz told me later that this second exercise was supposed to remove the drug effect entirely, because that’s what he thought the “problem” was. But that’s not what happened.
The clouded sensorium wasn’t just gone, it had been replaced with total knowledge.
You’ve heard of lucid dreaming, right? One of the things that yogis and other deep meditation practitioners work towards is lucid waking. That, in short, is what happened to me after Oz’s second exercise.
All of my senses worked normally, but I realized I was exerting effort to make that true. It’s similar to yoga: When you hold a pose you can notice and release tension in uninvolved muscles. I felt the tension my mind was exerting to make everything normal, and I relaxed it.
The world around me turned a half-twist and changed into a rainbow-fractal-mandala: Colors and patterns looping away into uncountable infinities, non-human entities, the fourth wall breached, the grain of sand made aware of the large design.
A half-twist reverse, a little tension in the left brain, and it was all back to normal. It was like this: Is the dancer spinning left or right?
Both and neither. It’s your mind that is spinning.
The reality illusion was made lovingly clear, not only because it effortlessly skinned itself, but because in both versions I could lucidly and precisely control my own sense of vision. It appeared as though I was in complete control of my sensorium, up to and including the ability to switch it off (which I didn’t try).
It was devastatingly, observably, clear that this always has been, and always will be the case, for everyone, because the sensorium is an illusion that occurs entirely in your mind, over which you have complete control. It still feels like I’m describing the perfectly obvious.
For example, I got to bend a spoon. You do it by forgetting that spoons have physical properties, by realizing that they’re entirely a mental construct, and then bending your point of view, though I realize the idea is totally lost in translation.
Keeping well in mind the subjective nature of reality: I also had a run-in with the undead, which was surprisingly pleasant. We were walking through an alley behind a bunch of Chinese herbal medicine shops when I realized someone was step-matching us, which is a kind of sympathetic hunting magick. I turned, and saw something horrible. One day I’ll draw it, but for now Google images can approximate.
I realized that I should have been scared, but wasn’t — like how you realize “oh, that ghost was supposed to frighten me” at Disneyland. I just looked back calmly, unafraid until it shuffle-ran away. It wasn’t like the thing could hurt me. It, like everything else, was just a figment of my imagination. Fear, it turns out, is what thoughts like that thing eat. Calm assertiveness, like you use with animals, is key, as is remembering the symbolic nature of everything.
Yoga, suddenly, made perfect sense. I took a breath so deep that the sensorium breathed, walls bowed, the wind blew, and trees bent and rattled. A simple sun salutation, the clouds parted, and the entire world stretched with me. Tree pose: Because trees know more than they’re letting on. It’s not you that bends, it’s reality.
The come-down was non-existent. I meditated in a park that quite obviously had fantastic chi while I slowly lost control of my senses. The eyelid of the mind drooped shut. Infinite knowledge was replaced with simple faith, like when you know a result but forget the proof.
I’ve spent the last five days writing, meditating, and doing yoga, if one bothers separating them into distinct activities. The further in time I get from the experience the less gibberish-filled my explanations become. I’m learning the bits that are real “you had to be there” stories, like when I figured out the sound of one hand clapping.
The whole multi-day experience was very interesting, very deep. I’m still integrating.