Neo-American Church

Chapter 12


About the third or fourth or fifth time that we swung out into the glare—it was along there somewhere, a couple of hours or so after sun-up—it wasn’t as pleasant as it had been.

When I woke up, my head was clear as a child’s and there wasn’t a soul stirring. It looked to be about 6 o’clock of a fine, bright morning. I sat up on the edge of the bed, in the same place I had occupied during the Psychedelian PTA meeting the night before, which was also the site of the candle mystery of my previous visit. I looked around for traces of wax and spotted an aperitif glass at my feet with what looked like brandy in it. Well, I thought, the cute rich girl from New York, fully conversant with every known form of human degeneracy, had probably left it there to steady my nerves in the morning. Very considerate of her. Good thing I hadn’t kicked it over, although I didn’t really need it badly because I hadn’t put away more than half my usual intake the day before.

Heavy drinkers will sometimes become moderate drinkers if there is plenty of cannabis around. One just forgets about booze, or getting up and finding the next one seems like too much trouble.

Hmmm, perhaps it was bad form for me to have passed out on Tim’s bed. It might be considered “a sacred shrine area” or something. This idea caused some minor anxiety so I tossed down the brandy and went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. It wasn’t so easy. I felt slightly dizzy. Things looked a little strange. I headed back towards the bed. The first rays of the sun were coming through the big window on my left, and I turned to get a full view of it.

I was knocked to the floor, as all normal sensation and motor control left my body. The sun, roaring like an avalanche, was headed straight for me, expanding like a bomb and filling my consciousness in less time than it takes to describe it. It swirled, clockwise, and made two-and-one-half turns before I lost all normal sense of place and passed out, right there on the floor of Tim’s room. The next day, Susan Metzner told me she had heard a thump, perhaps the sound of my body hitting the floor, and had crossed the hall and looked in to see me prostrate and apparently unconscious.

“I wasn’t stoned in any way,” Susan emphasized. No reason why she should have been, at 6 in the morning. “You turned every color of the rainbow and then you disappeared right in front of my eyes!”

I don’t remember that. The next thing I do remember is rolling around on the floor in Dick’s room, which was across the hall from Tim’s, adjoining Ralph and Susan’s.

Although I didn’t see myself disappear, there is nothing in my philosophy which would make such an occurrence impossible. You can’t see sight, as Buddha often remarked. And Susan was the last person in the house whom I had any reason to think would encourage me to believe anything magical or extraordinary had happened. So I believe her report, but only, I am convinced, because I have a conceptual context in which to place it. I think there are many people who have forgotten equally bizarre occurrences within a matter of hours. The memory of events that don’t “make sense” just fades away.

On the floor of Dick’s room I had what I later found out was called in the East the Kundalini (“serpent power”) experience, a kind of mirror image of the vision of the exploding sun. I seemed to be inside a whirlwind of electrical plasma which also made two-and-one-half gigantic turns, this time counter-clockwise. Ralph, Susan and some other people I couldn’t identify were in the room trying to get tablets of thorazine, which I couldn’t swallow, down my throat.

All I could do was roll around and pronounce a few phonemes, such as “ah,” “oh,” “duh” and so forth. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think. The trouble was I couldn’t think any single thing. It seemed as though all the thoughts which had entered the minds of men and beasts in the last million years were going through my mind at the same time and with the same intensity and velocity, resulting in a kind of violent white hum. I felt a needle in my ass. Ralph had hit me with some thorazine in a way I couldn’t refuse. “I’m not ready for this,” I found myself saying, much to my surprise.

“That’s why we gave you a thousand mics,” Ralph said.

A foolish, arrogant and evasive answer. I think they gave me a thousand mics hoping it would turn me into a cosmic-minder like themselves. The thorazine, if it had any effect at all, didn’t have the effect of bringing me down. When I closed my eyes in Dick’s room, I found myself in Tim’s room when I opened them and vice-versa. I switched back and forth a half a dozen times before I settled in Tim’s room, seated in the lotus position, which I almost never adopt unless extremely stoned, on the bed.

For a while I sat on the bed with no thoughts in my mind, no sense of personal identity, no feelings about anything one way or another, while the program for the visitors presumably continued downstairs. Since my sense of elapsed time was one of the first things to go, I can’t say if this condition lasted for hours or minutes. The third floor was deserted.

Then people appeared, clustered around the record player, which was connected to speakers in the visitors’ rooms. I heard someone say, “Listen, who does that look like over there?” Someone else said, “Yeah, you’re right.” Various people, some of whom seemed familiar and some of whom didn’t, sat down next to the bed and asked me silly questions. I tried to talk to them but, in most cases, they disappeared in front of my eyes. I remember grabbing Hollingshead by the arm and asking him if he was “really” there. He said he was and then disappeared. At some point in the midst of these absurdities, I made a decision: I did not want to live without the appearance of continuity or cause and effect rationality, at least not yet. I lapsed back into the no-thought world. I would wait it out. Sweat poured from my forehead, but the rest of my body was dry.

Months later, while loitering around the library of the University of Miami waiting for a junkie friend of Ed Rosenfeld’s to show up, I found myself at eye level with a large volume called The Serpent Power, written by Arthur Avalon, pen name of a high English high official who had made, in the old and admirable English tradition of the scholarly amateur, a serious and sympathetic study of Indian religions in general and yoga in particular. I was astonished and delighted, when I flipped the book open, to find my two-and-one-half turns and sweating forehead (“the rain of jewels,” I think it was called) described as the salient features of the classic experience. The garish meta-anatomical diagrams of chakras and ectoplasmic plumbing I had seen at Millbrook and elsewhere bore no relation to this classic description or to my experience.

The scholar dealing with ancient religious texts can rarely be certain if he is reading the productions of a fantast, a con man or the genuine article. By the time these works are lodged in closed stacks or museums, they are jumbled together in putative value, although the authors may have contradicted and despised one another while they lived. The smallest LSD trip is a more reliable source of information about supernormal consciousness than any book.

When I came out of it and started moving around (drink, cigarette, bath) I was still stoned in terms of perceptual enhancement but, compared to what I had just been through, this condition seemed unexceptional. So all the walls and carpets were rippling and glowing with arcane life. What else was new? I was glad to be back in the humdrum everyday world. Ralph stopped me as I was coming out of a bathroom.

“How are you doing?” he asked. Knowing smile.

“Fine.” I shrugged.

“Listen, we would appreciate it if you would stay away from the visitors until you’re completely down, OK?”

No problem. The last thing I wanted to do was talk to someone who was straight. I went to the library and reclined on a couch. Beautiful room. I contentedly looked around admiring the way the lamplight gleamed on a gilt binding or contrasted with a soft nest of dusk under a table. Ernie came in and sat down. He was wearing a Robin Hood hat.

“How are you doing?”

“Oh, just getting used to it,” I said. “Beautiful in here, isn’t it?”

“Getting used to what?”

“Being God, or whatever you want to call it,” I said.

“Yeah, man!” Ernie seemed delighted with my explanation. “I’m a magician, you know. A few days ago I decided to try it out, you know? See if it really worked? So I got this .45 and shot myself right in the head.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Nothing, man. Absolutely nothing.”

“What about your relatives?” I asked Ernie.

Ernie seemed upset and frightened at the question. With a hurried “I gotta go, man” he left the room.

Some people insist on testing out the theory, which Tim and Evans-Wentz preached, that one could do “anything” if one’s “head was right.” Later, Tim altered this pitch somewhat to “you can be anyone, this time around,” and published a recording on this theme, which has the advantage of being vague and impossible to corroborate or disprove.

Dick, at the time of this visit, was hobbling around with a cast on one foot. He had jumped out of a window, intending to flit about like Mary Poppins, and broken his ankle. Susan Leary’s favorite was to take off in her Daddy’s car without a registration, license or money.

It’s usually a matter of taking wild chances with the police as a demonstration of one’s magical or spiritual “powers.” This delusion seems to have lost popularity, for which happy development I give some credit to Tim’s series of carelessness-caused busts and his subsequent series of imprisonments, all highly publicized. Kesey’s busts probably helped too. If such notable super-magicians couldn’t fend off the cops, what hope did junior magicians have of doing it? I can therefore find it in my heart to entertain the notion that Tim’s and Kesey’s busts did a lot of good although saying that they “deserved” them would be going too far.

In Snazzm terms, I think I went through the same kind of shit for the same kinds of reasons. For years, I encouraged people to think in terms of magical powers and supernaturalism, the original Principle 2 and my Senate testimony being the best examples of this shameful compromise with supernaturalist ideation. It’s easy to say, “Why not let it go at that? Some Psychedelians will never understand solipsistic nihilism, so why deny them their comforting superstitions?”

I no longer worry about it. Those who require comforting superstitions will keep them, no matter what. My incarceration rate, I’m happy to say, moderated considerably after I tightened Church doctrine. McPozzm, I was now a nut case. Wish I had done it earlier. Oh, well. Live and learn.

I had asked the question which caused Ernie to flee out of genuine curiosity. Did this troll-like creature have a philosophy or was he just a mischief maker? If he had a philosophy, what was it? Did he believe his punctured corpse and grieving, or celebrating, relatives were to be found in some other dimension, plane, level, bardo, or “multi-verse”? I wanted to ask him what he thought would have happened if, instead of shooting himself in private, he had chosen to blow himself to pieces with dynamite in Yankee Stadium with thousands of witnesses present.

I wonder, could Ernie’s story have prompted Dick to jump out of the window? If this were fiction, I would write it that way.

In a dream, phenomenological order can be preserved by forgetting everything which, if remembered, would make an unpleasant event necessary, and substituting a history of impressions which do not make that event necessary, all without disturbing the “laws” of “physical” causality. It’s typical of such transitions that one knows nothing of them, but many people can recall certain discontinuities in their lives, highly improbable escapes from impending disaster, “near death” experiences, and so on, which may be thought of, Fazzm, as transitional.

In general, I agree with the classical Greek Skeptics of the West, from Pyrrho of Elis to Sextus Empiricus (about a 500-year stretch there, which produced all kinds of terminological oddities, like the idea of cultivating “apathy” in order to reach a state of “ataraxy”) and modern Western philosophers of the empiricist congregation, such as David Hume. The Mysterious East has parallel doctrines, but the semantic murk is even thicker, as one might expect. Nagarjuna, for example, denied that he was an “x,” with “x” being the then current label for philosophers of a certain school in his part of the world, now routinely translated as “nihilists” in English. Yet Nagarjuna denied that anything existed. What are we to make of this? In my opinion, not much. It all depends on what you mean by “nihilist,” just as it all depends on what you mean by “apathy” and “ataraxy.” All words are merely marks and sounds, and have no meaning other than the sensations and images to which they relate.

The antakarana of Samkara, although sometimes a useful term when talking about the Snazzm organization of intra-psychic events which appear to be external, is bad Fazzm if a cosmic saksin is implied, a doctrine which leads to a plurality of “selves” in a container-contained dualism.

Berkeley’s “Mind of God” solution to the (perceived) epistemological “problem” is a fallacy because it is an unnecessary multiplication of entities. There is no problem. Remember Occam’s razor. Cut out the Middleman. Poof! Gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Assume a plurality of selves only in a phenomenological sense, analogous to ordinary dream content. The yogacara doctrine of vijnanadvaita and the atamadvaita of Samkara, which postulates a sort of “absolute” or “cosmic” vijnana series, should both be rejected. I see no use for this metaphysical junk or any other kind of space junk or space junkies.

I reject sankya yoga with extreme prejudice, as merely a dualistic substitute for the original Psychedelian soma practices which were suppressed by the Brahmanist priests who, unable to control the stuff and too cowardly to take it, abolished its use by political means (fire and sword). A thousand curses on the filthy, flea-bitten bastards.

There is no “subtle body” (linga-sarira). The phenomenological body is always imaginary. Aloofness from prakrti, kaivalya, or whatever you want to call it, is impossible since distance and the space-time continuum itself are prakrti, and there is no distance between abstracts, at least not where I come from. The monist Vedanta of Badarayana and his ilk is less objectionable than the Vedanta of Samkara or Ramanuja, but much ado about nothing in any case.

All phenomenology is flux (samtana) and an aggregate lacking self (samghata), as Hume, in effect, says. Instantaneous “manifestation” of capacity instantaneously “obliterated,” so to speak. Not only is there no objective “reality” whatever (sunya-vada), there is no subjective “reality” whatever. The term “reality” is meaningless. Nabokov, a solipsistic nihilist, was right. It is the only word in the English language that should be placed, routinely, between quotation marks (to emphasize its mere idiomatic utility).

All the effort and the “self-discipline” serve to prevent Enlightenment, not to “find” it. This can be overcome by taking large doses of LSD, making the truth irresistible, at least for a few minutes.

Snazzm, there is no past, present, or future, only the categorization of images so as to maintain the illusions of seriality and continuity.

“That time which we improve, or which is improvable,” as Thoreau said, “is neither past, present nor future.”

Virtually all philosophic difficulties with these concepts may be solved by recalling that life is (is in the nature of) a dream. If you have some event in mind which you think might argue against the solipsist hypothesis, ask yourself if it is possible to dream of this happening. It always is.

Read the Mulamadhyamakakarika of Nagarjuna, David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, and Outlines of Pyrrhonism by Sextus Empiricus. The epigrams of the Zen masters can also help. Abandon all spatio-temporal “metaphysical” metaphors, including (it’s all done with mirrors) holography. Use the I Ching.

Testing it out by jumping out of a window or shooting yourself in the head may lead to your miraculous survival as a basket case or a “human vegetable.” There’s nothing wrong with suicide, per se, but do not “test it out.”

I assert the convertibility of phenomenological order, not the characterlessness of fate.

All reasoning from cause to effect and effect to cause is founded on “custom and belief,” as Hume put it, on a “harmony” with a “nature” entirely composed of impressions and ideas which cannot be demonstrated to refer, accurately or inaccurately, to any objects or relations in an external world. Hume, unfortunately, chose to call this a “problem.”

There is no problem here at all for solipsistic nihilists, and this fact ought to be mentioned by the academicians who make so much of this supposedly intractable philosophic difficulty when they “do Hume” in the classroom. It may be a serious psychological problem for them but if it is, it’s their own fault. If they would only get stoned out of their gourds and deny the externality of relations for a change, they would have some “real” problems to deal with, like keeping their jobs and staying out of jail.

The “principle of association of ideas” which the young Hume excitedly promised and for mysterious reasons never delivered, is the principle of solipsistic synchronicity as shown in dreams.

Hume had nothing to say about dreams. I think he saw the connection, but backed off when he realized how mad such talk would seem to his learned contemporaries who were, with one or two notable exceptions, as obtuse about all this as are most of the academic philosophers of the present day who delude themselves, out of desperation, into thinking that various specious inKantations “answer” Hume.

Nothing “answers” Hume. Hume’s epistemological conclusions do not require “answers,” and, as far as I know, aside from declaring that solipsism is “insane,” nobody who thinks so has ever explained why they should, or why they are “insane.”

What Hume’s insights require is further development, and I am satisfied to see my formulations as contributions to this noble cause.

I renounce any claim to be heard founded on the foolish thesis that persons who find candles exploding in their vicinity, or who momentarily disappear from their own or others’ fields of vision, are necessarily wise or good or even remarkable. The reader who is put off is a man after my own heart.

Take a thousand micrograms yourself sometime, and then look at the rising sun.

These strange and impressive experiences have no bearing whatever on the credibility of philosophic or religious assertions made by those who have them or witness them. Likewise, there is no more good reason for modern folks to believe in the philosophic ideas they might get from impressive beings from outer space than there was good reason for the Amerindians to believe that the institutionalized insanity brought to them from across the ocean by Columbus and Cortez was any better than the institutionalized insanity they had cooked up for themselves.

Technological advancement is no guarantee of wisdom or virtue, as has been amply demonstrated by the history of this century.

Nor are the opinions of an Enlightened person on this or that ethical rule, political party or economic theory necessarily any better than those of Joe Shmoe from Kokomo. Such things are McPozzm and are derived from this, that and the other thing. Enlightenment is Snazzm and concerns the true nature of all things. The Zmms are incommensurable.

When I went to bed, a big book appeared, suspended in space, about three feet in front of me.

Fine. A little light reading before falling asleep. The pages turned automatically when I finished reading the bottom lines. It was a mixture of Dylan Thomas-style poetry and prose. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the content any better than I can remember Dylan Thomas’ poetry, but at the time it was all as clear and definite as anything I might have looked up in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Every letter was illuminated in gold and the pages themselves were sky blue. A Disney-style production, very common in the second bardo.

When I got tired, I told the book to go away, which it instantly did, and I went to sleep as quickly and easily as a baby.

If all visionary experience were so obedient, agreeable and modest, there wouldn’t be any problems with it. It may be that avoiding threatening and spooky experience is a matter of avoiding fear itself, which is easier for some people than it is for others.

Folklore has it that dogs attack only if one is afraid of them. Something similar operates in determining the visionary content of trips. If one is afraid, the emotion may be expressed in appropriate archetypal images. When one learns nothing horrific is involved in death/rebirth experiences (what else is new?) anxiety decreases, and visionary experience calms down and becomes part of the background, like vivid wallpaper or a dramatic sunset.

But good “control,” as such, doesn’t impress me as being evidence of anything except good control. Ramakrishna, far from having good control, had to have people around to prop him up and point him in the right direction, as he staggered around making profound statements and giving the Boy Scout salute. If one concentrates, as Ramakrishna did, on the most whacked-out aspects of experience, and virtually ignores everything else, there won’t be much in the way of control. Good old crazy Ramakrishna, my favorite “avatar.” Since he lived in the nineteenth century, there are lots of primary-source stories and even photographs, showing his life in details highly discordant with the standard myths. His most frequent demand of his disciples was that they “pass the pipe,” and his diapers were always falling down.

Perhaps his wisest saying was, “When the choice is between up and down, go down.” Don’t push it, in other words.

The next day, Ralph asked me if I had “learned anything.” I told him that all my suspicions had been confirmed. Ralph said nothing, but did not seem pleased with my reply.

Ernie came over to where I was sitting at the kitchen table and broke an egg over my head. I backed him into a corner, where he squealed and giggled and begged for mercy. To hell with it, I decided. Anyone who would suggest to someone coming down from a big trip that shooting oneself in the head with a .45 was a harmless diversion was too crazy to be beaten on by me. Let his peer group do it. I washed the egg out of my hair and went home.

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