Writing as catharsis

Burning off impurities of the soul

Posted in mysticism by Lachlan R. Dale on October 22, 2012
Amanita muscaria by Amy Duncan

Amanita muscaria by Amy Duncan

It would seem my approximations were correct; indulging yesterday was a profoundly positive experience.

My friend and I drove up toward Wiseman’s Ferry, stopping a little above Cherrybrook to follow a firetrail through the bush. We’d been told that it was possible to drive right through the trail, but this proved untenable in my 2WD vehicle. We grabbed whatever supplies we thought important (a pipe, a few beers, some fruit, my music player just in case, a picnic rug) and began to wander down the dry and dusty path. At mid-afternoon the heat was sweltering. As we walked we were occasionally hit by a gust of hot wind thrown up from the surrounding valleys.

We looked around for a suitable place to set up – somewhere flat and well shaded either near water or boasting a decent view. After ten minutes or so we stumbled onto a clearing marked by some highly corroded car wrecks. The clearing led to a little sub-trail to a cliff-face overlooking the valley, with plenty of respite from the sun. Considering the heat, we were eager to get under the shade and so deemed the spot acceptable.

We spoke of past experiences, and the circumstances that shaped them. My friend had not paid overly much attention to the frame of mind or even the physical setting in which he had indulged in the past, which I thought was irresponsible and a definite oversight. I stressed that set and setting were so obviously crucial – it is an element of respect that must be paid to these substances.

This time he took some time to relax himself; meditating in an attempt to push out the anxious thoughts that had occasionally surfaced throughout the day. We sat around and spoke of anything that came to mind for a while, sipping our lukewarm beers. When we both seemed calm and comfortable we open our innocuous piece of folded paper.

This is where description and explanation become difficult. I have a few characteristic experiences when indulging. The first is the complete and utter obliteration of the concept of time; you seem to flirt with infinity in certain waves of the drug; thoughts and visuals oscillate, pixelate and disintegrate around poles. You become profoundly aware of the singular essence of which all duality is comprised. My friend said at one point that even trying to cognate the idea of future or past was absurd; that he could in some sense theorise that concept of “four hours from now”, but could make absolutely no rational connection between that point and his current state.

It is as Aldous Huxley described his mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception;

“… along with indifference to space, there was an even more complete indifference to time. ‘There seems to be plenty of it’, was all I would answer when the investigator asked me to say what I felt about time. Plenty of it, but exactly how much was entirely irrelevant. I could, of course, have looked at my watch but my watch I knew was in another universe. My actual experience had been, was still, of an indefinite duration. Or alternatively, of a perpetual present made up of one continually changing apocalypse.”

That last sentence is especially apt.

The experience of destruction of time has some profound effects on the psyche. As “civilised” humans, we cling quite desperately to the concept of time. In a capitalist economy, carefully regulated measures of time are of paramount essence for efficiency of production – and this is perhaps one of the most useful aspects of the drug; it completely mocks your flailing grasping towards familiar measures of time to reveal our obsession for what it truly is; an artificial and frankly quite pathetic human abstraction. You have little choice but to stomach this phased humiliation and adapt your frame of mind according. Fighting it would certainly have negative repercussions.

In this instance I can remember near the “start” proclaiming that I had felt where the peak level was for this dosage; that things would be fairly mild and relaxed. In retrospect, I am almost certain this was far beyond the first wave of reasonable onset – but it is impossible to speak of chronology. Hours melt into minutes melt into days melt into eternity. The experience is one constant, unbroken wave of indefinite duration.

Another common experience of mine is to possess of a feeling of power. I feel as if I am drinking from an immense well of strength; perhaps that of nature or the universe. In this case I could feel (or was aware of) the power of the monolith. I could clearly see my own self tapped into this well; as if drawing a contextually insignificant stream from an endless ocean.

I can recall waves in which I became hyper-aware of my own body; feeling in perfect physical control, balance and strength. At other times, however, I felt quite uncoordinated  the sense of increased awareness moved to my mind while my body was felt to feel like some distant, awkward thing.

Another typical experience is a heightened connection with, or awareness of nature. I mark the first time I indulged some five years ago as the most important moment of my life, as it really made me more aware of the natural world. I now have a healthy respect, awe and appreciation for nature. So too would I argue my ability to empathise with other human beings has greatly increased. I now harbour an outlook on life that makes it hard for me to hate anyone with seriousness, let alone blame them for their actions.

I recall explaining to my friend my relationship with a certain individual whom, despite his flaws, I feel quite close to. He asked; how can you not blame them for the things they did? I said I cannot blame anyone for anything; I feel pity and understanding not only for this person, but the whole world.

Our discussion seemed to steer largely towards psychological matters, as led by my friend. I seemed to want to speak considerably less, and when I did I tended towards the philosophical, religious and existential. In speaking at length about other peoples troubles and lives, it was clear my friend is preoccupied by the suffering of others – particularly in instance of injustice or perpetual misfortune. As a highly empathetic man he needed release from these small personal miseries through the experience.

The day ended with an inexpressibly beautiful sunset. Nearby bushfires powered an intensified blaze of pink, magenta and burnt orange hues. The long shadows of dusk made the landscape even more dramatic, transforming the surrounding valleys into the very embodiment of natural beauty; an endless structure of infinite complexity. We were appropriately humbled.

When we jumped back in the car light was fading in the very last moments of day. As we drove back up the trail, the surrounding valleys were now almost completely filled smoke, while violent streaks of colour marked the sky. I felt as if I were travelling through the apocalypse; that I was in some sense witnessing the end of the world. A very suitable return.

When all had subsided I felt completely cleansed and relaxed. It is as if I have released a huge amount of tension in my life – work related, psychological, spiritual, on all different aspects of self. After such stress in the days beforehand, I feel fresh and whole again. As always, there are certainly purging and potentially destructive elements of the experience amongst those which are clearly beneficial. I am restored with reverence and respect once more, coupled with a cleaned soul and renewed access to a vast store of spiritual energy.

By all accounts my friend feels similarly purged.

Addendum; I should note I had intended to open this package some weeks ago, but decided against it when I considered the various circumstances. This was a very good decision. It is very important to take heed of the conditions in which (or from which) you are departing. All indulgence should be underscored by total respect and caution.

Also interesting to compare my writing here with that a few days prior, when I began to consider the circumstances leading up to this experience.


The timing seems right

Posted in Ranting and rambling by Lachlan R. Dale on October 19, 2012

Today my life is cluttered. Thoughts, tasks, responsibilities and projects create a dull roar inside my mind, and increasingly I find it hard to find peace.

The result has triggered bitterness and a sort of sardonic anger. The worst aspect of this is the fact that, to a degree, I enjoy it. I am aware that anger is a cheap shortcut to empowerment and feelings of entitlement. It is my old self manifesting itself again; dripping in cynicism  proned to bursts of rage; walking with tension pulled tight across my shoulders. When consider in a more objective fashion, this is certainly no ideal way to be.

The mere fact this is the first time I have written something for sixteen days should be used as some sort of indicator. Lately I have found little time for recreational reading, writing or guitar-playing.

The imbalance is obvious; my work life is consuming too much of me, but the real issue comes when it is coupled with quite intense demands from my post-graduate coursework, and an increase in my band and promotional activity.

It is within this context that tonight I meet an old friend once more. It has been some four months. In the time since our last meeting, he has spent time in a remote Aboriginal community, in a beautiful and semi-isolated property in the Adelaide hills, and wandering across the German countryside for several week. The contrast is significant, and it should be an interesting one to explore.

Our plans are also of interest. Tomorrow we are travelling to a remote location in the forest to sample of some particular mushroom. The timing feels perfect; I need a dose of a more universal perspective to slice through my current projectory, and reveal some essential truths.

I look ahead to the end of the year. My post-graduate semester will end. In some six weeks, I will be travelling through the forests and temples of beautiful Cambodia. In December I have a few weeks reprieve; coupled with the launch of a new album. In January I have an extensive touring plan locked in.

The future looks good, but feels too far out of reach as stress and strain seize my mind. My life has become a blur these last few weeks. Hopefully this short reunion and reprieve will help me to refocus.

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