I love to trip by myself. It’s refreshing to be able to let it all hang out once in a while without having to factor in the reactions of baffled witnesses. I also like tripping à deux with a friend or a lover. It’s always good to have a buddy, and I’m kinky for the multiverse. Likewise I enjoy taking psychedelics at big events, providing that the venue meets my fairly high standards. It can be liberating to take my private practice out in public in an environment like Burning Man, and there are certain effects that only occur or only become visible on a large scale, when hundreds of trippers are running around and bouncing off of one another in a chaotic milieu.
I think small groups are my favorite, though. Like many of us, I started out tripping with a crew of close friends, and time and broad experience have deepened my appreciation for this mode.
I still consider myself a member of the Last Saturdays Club, though there has not been a formal meeting in many years due to geographical incompatibility issues. It came about when a European documentary crew wanted to film some folks taking mushrooms. They hoped to show how it might be a salubrious and enlightening practice, so they were looking for subjects who could be counted on to say something reasonably intelligent whilst in the throes of the effects. Consequently, they called upon a psychedelic luminary (whose good name I shall not sully by association with yours truly) and asked him to round up some suitable volunteers. My husband and I were lucky enough to be amongst the chosen. We decided as a group that we really ought to trip together a few times before the cameras started rolling, and so we met for a number of consecutive Saturdays to practice and prepare. Long story short, the documentary didn’t actually happen (or anyway we weren’t in it); but surprise surprise, we ended up having so much fun that we established a regular tradition of taking a variety of psychedelics together on the last Saturday of every month—a delightful practice in which some of us still occasionally indulge with a wistful nostalgia.
Working with the same group regularly over a number of years is intense, to say the least. It’s also quite illuminating. Psychedelics can magnify or distort familiar character traits and bring up unexpected material. You find out an awful lot about yourself, and about the members of your adventure party. They find things out about you, too. It’s incredibly intimate and it pays to choose one’s companions wisely. Given the blind choice of having to have sex with a random stranger or having to trip hard in an elevator with said stranger for six whole hours, I’d be inclined to sacrifice my virtue. Transpersonal effects, such as the perception of shared consciousness, can be quite dramatic in my experience—and I don’t want just anybody in my head with me, thank you very much. Who knows what kind of cooties I might catch? I also don’t want to worry about people messing with me, or casting judgment, or freaking out all the time and needing constant attention.
We found that it was helpful to set some ground rules, which I’ve detailed extensively in Ground Control: A Sitter’s Primer (on Erowid). No violence is an obvious rule. Some people also like to be confident that they won’t be hit on while they’re under the influence. Others want to know that they can comfortably veto a musical selection that isn’t working for them, or nix a proposed activity such as a stroll to the neighborhood park. A few questions are best answered before the fun begins, and synced with a sitter, if you have one. Is there a strong intention to stay together? When is it okay to leave the target area? At what point will emergency services be called in, if the unexpected should occur?
On a personal level, I like to know where my podmates are coming from. What are the relative experience levels in the group? What is each person’s set like, and what are they hoping to get out of out of the coming encounter? What’s everybody taking? Sometimes the members of the Last Saturdays Club would all drop the same balm, other times we would each team up with a different ally and let them all play together.
My friend Honest John, who was also a member of Last Saturdays, throws a recurring party called Geisscream. There have been maybe a dozen or so installments since the turn of the millennium. The cast has shifted around a central core of dedicated explorers, but the game is always played the same way. To wit, each person is required to bring an eighth of mushrooms, a pint of ice cream, and however many minutes worth of music you get when you divide six hours by the number of participants. Then John throws all the music into shuffle play and turns on the LCD projector. (Geiss was one of the early awesome screensaver visualizations.) All the survivors get a copy of the playlist as a souvenir.
It’s interesting to note how Geisscream has evolved over almost a decade. For one thing, we’ve all gotten better at it as we gained experience. We know now when a companion’s apparent insanity is cause for concern and when to step back and let it run its natural course. Problems often become magnified by well-meaning attempts at intervention. I work with preschoolers, and I find that many of the same principles apply. Simple distraction is often the best remedy for sudden shifts in mood or tone. Occasional ripples of dissonance are fairly manageable, though once in a while a situation becomes contagiously out of phase with the gestalt and someone has to take a time-out. If there is a sitter, they can take temporary custody of the troublemaker with a view towards reintegration. If no chaperone is available, it’s up to whoever is most able to keep a warm and watchful eye on the developing scenario. [...]
It’s always more fun to travel with good friends, and inner journeys are no exception. The atmosphere of camaraderie and high adventure allows me to draw courage from the communal well and helps me keep my set positive. I find humor is essential to the enterprise, and sometimes a passing reference to an inside joke or the stench of an abominable multi-level pun can be the best possible medicine when things are touch-and-go. Besides, people are fun to play with! Transpersonal effects, like apparent shared visions, are fascinating to me, and I’ve spent countless happy hours trying to devise games and tests to prove or disprove our perceptions of internal congruity. Also, when the game is over, it’s nice to have people to share memories with. It’s sometimes hard to figure out how to file this stuff when there are no other observers to corroborate my experience and bear witness to my transformation.
The friendships I’ve forged in the heart of the Mystery have stood the test of time. There is nothing more bonding than sharing a peak experience, and psychedelics have a tendency to produce that sort of thing. People who trip together are often privileged to witness one another’s finest moments, and they also get to see their pals literally munching the carpet now and again. It requires a lot of trust to really go there; and, assuming everyone takes care of each other, that trust continues to grow over time and becomes a safe foundation from which to communally investigate the fascinating universe between our ears. It’s pretty bizarre in there, folks. I’m glad that we have each other to explore it with.