Citation: Figment. "Weary of Elves: experience with Ayahuasca (ID 23411)". Erowid.org. Apr 7, 2003. erowid.org/exp/23411
I downed around 1000 ml of strong, noxious Hawaiian spirit juice, plopped down in a lawnchair next to a fire, and prepared myself beneath a warm, slightly overcast sky. I had taken the brew a few years before, and that trip was a remarkable rollercoaster ride of dense imagery, apocalyptic fore-flashes, and meta-psychedelic percepts, and it concluded with a sense of surfing through the cosmos as my own spirit monad, protected from fiercesome jungle gods by a galactic Bodhisattva brigade, and communing with the vast astro-Egyptian intelligences who had leapfrogged through the interstellar internet that awaits us on the far side of the coming. You know, Transformation.
But tonight a different dimension of vision lay in store for me, one which had little resemblance to the gooey, eco-religious accounts I had recently read in Ralph Metzner’s book Ayahuasca: Hallucinogens, Consciousness, and the Spirit of Nature. This time it was more like a slowed-down unfolding of a fierce N,N-DMT trip, without much of the heart energy and terran visions that came before. It was if the floorboards of the psychedelic funhouse were stripped away and I was introduced to the gears, fiber wires and organic machines that actually produce the images. It was not very narrative or symbolic, but constituted more as a nested series of interlocking repetitions of various spaces, messages, and perceptions, including a few dire cosmic traps that threatened to clutch me for eternity inside their pinball play.
“They” were also definitely in the house. It may be that Terence McKenna has simply seeded the meme-space that surrounds some tryptamines with his famous tales on self-transforming machine elves that proffer various alien objects/machines/languages with an almost malignant glee. But I certainly know what he is talking about, and these fellows now haunt the tryptamine realm for me. Tonight they leaned in quickly: “Oh you are back. We suckered you in here once again!” And they proceeded with their mischevious chittering bee-dance, as if they were coaxing me into some kind of hyperdimensional circuit that would leave sanity far behind. I never “gave in” though, whatever that means, and by the end of the trip, I was utterly tired of their cavortings.
There was nowhere to hide in the world fringed by these characters—everywhere was consciousness, was their consciousness of me, playing close attention to me. I became the apocalyptic subject at the end of time, all narratives of catastrophe and emergency (plane crashes, fires, eco-doom) ending in me. It seemed as if it were time to die and be phased into an infinite-math space of mind and machines. No jaguars or bejeweled jungle temples here—this was the Alien Impersonal, running the assembly code of creation.
It may be that I did not take enough (unlikely) or hold it down long enough (quite possible), but I actually found the whole show growing rather tedious despite its strength. I was “me” enough to sometimes yearn to return to the human realm, to quit these cycles, which did not seem to lead anywhere, or rather, were so outside of the space-time frames I am used to that I could not assimilate or understand. I felt as if I were seeing into DNA, even if this thought, like the machine elves, may simply be an artifact of my reading. Nonetheless, I perceived a realm of constantly folding and unfolding units, creating forms out of the liminal zone between abstract code and material molecule. This fecund and hyperactive generation of basic forms and patterns seemed to set the stage for “higher,” more “conscious” forms of thought, intention, and memory—in other words, for the human spirit. But despite flashes of mudras and shamanic methods, I never felt I could climb up that ladder. Unlike my previous experience, where I was drawn up into a kind of Buddhaspace, this time I remained pretty enmeshed in a roiling matrix of multiplicities, which was frankly as idiotic and mechanical as it was profound. Creation is a blind wonder; we are in it, but not quite of it.
A kind of cosmic nausea settled upon me. At moments I felt the potential of integrating this material into a more organized, more “human” pattern, through singing, or gesturing, or adopting the sort of pristine, choiceless awareness I had learned from Zen. At moments I had flashes of inhabiting/being a god form, à la tantra, and I had the realization that the emphasis on pattern and proportion in so many religious traditions (mandalas, circles, spirals, trees, ladders, etc.) can be seen as ways to consciously organize the more blind, repetitive, and chaotic forces of this psychophysical realm of primal DNA reproduction. I found myself getting glimpses of the Kabbalistic tree of life, which seemed to temporarily coax the almost maggot-like code units into a gleaming array of sephirot that coded within its Name the thousand names of God. I chanted my favorite Jewish chant. But I never booted out of the soup for long, and spent a lot of the trip locked in repetitive loops.
Once again I felt as if I were being offered some final choice. DMT almost always does this to me, creating the perception that I am standing at some cosmic crossroads and must choose between different competing spaces/entities/techniques. The restless fluctuations of perception manifest as a form of doubt, so that even if I slip into a zone of Buddhist calm, I feel as if I were holding back or falling into a trap. Sometimes the sense of choice gets overlaid with the devil/angel dyad, but even then its never really clear who’s wearing the white hats. Of course, this is most likely a magnification of my own psychological crap. Perhaps I need to let go and just flow with things, to give into whatever seems to be arising, however demonic, rather than resisting, or feeling like I can resist. Or, on the other hand, play the game more consciously, through song, mudra, movement, spell. I felt that it would have goon [[?]] had someone showed me the ropes in this space, that I was blundering about without a map or compass, but that such things did exist.
One sign that I didn’t hold the stuff down for long enough was that lots of personal psychology came up after the peak, lots of fleshy desires and impulses, all whirling about the central theme of the trip: reproduction. Is reproduction a joyful creation or an idiotic compulsion? Coming down, I recalled the Buddhist idea that the psychophysical personality is composed of five skandas, or “heaps,” and the fourth one is dispositions/habits. We are just brimming with little machines, habitual actions/thoughts/perceptions: rolling the eyes, picking the nose, groping toward a breast, sighing in despair, whatever. One interpretation of enlightenment is the cleansing or awakening of all these little habits, so that we become less mechanical in our thought and action. One way of interpreting the trip was that it put me in touch with this whole crass carnival of the self, the biological unconscious that ghosts our every action and thought. It often seemed incredibly tedious, because these little autonomous agents are largely blind, with no internal momentum towards consciousness or development. Hence the “religious” need for integration, for “work”: weaving the pattern, singing the song, drawing the magic sigil, chanting the holy name. The hope is that these practices can weave together the seething multiplicity of the psyche, alchemically producing an object that synthesizes and integrates the various levels of being. And my distinct impression was that the drug on its own was not going to do this work for me.
Or maybe not. Perhaps it’s seething chaos all the way up and all the way down, from quantum cellular effects to the farthest reaches of the Hubble Deep Field. In one of the more sobering visions of the trip, our universe was seen as a single bubble that grew and popped inside an endless series of bubbling and popping universes. There seemed no point, no rhyme or reason, just endless reproduction. Glimpsing this, I tasted the world-weariness that sparked early Buddhism’s explicit quest for nirvana—which means, simply, “extinction,” to snuff the light out. For the cosmos I saw was a cosmos of reiterative machines without end, novel in their productions, but meaningless as well. And yet it was also a world where consciousness inevitably grew more aware, even in the midst of an absurd and implacable fireworks show. The only way “out” was to embrace this vast cosmic creation machine, or somehow learn to program it, or perhaps to transcend it altogether, to be done with the game of subject and object. Either way, to leave most human dreams behind. All these implications battered my poor soul, and though I would sometimes fall back on an impersonal blend of compassion and emptiness for the cosmic condition, the tremendous velocity and hyperactive confusion of the DMT matrix made it very difficult to feel the peaceful witness center within.
When the trip faded I was enormously gratified to be back in this goofy human form, with all its limitations, anxieties, and pains. In fact, the most valuable aspects of the trip for me were those that lingered on the margins of the vision: an appreciation for the rareness of our particular planet, for its solidity and sense, and of the excellence of ordinary, loving human life. I think in some ways the most meaningful aspect of the evening occurred during the preparation. A friend and I tried to light a fire, and it wasn’t happening—the wood was wet, the newspaper poorly crumpled. My Cub Scout skills were long forgotten. We tried for a while, but when she gave up, I kept at it. It took at least a half hour to coax a real fire from such damp wood, but I kept at it, paying close attention to the fire, its points of intensity and promise, its constantly crumbling architecture, its need for oxygen gaps and channels of flow. It was good to have built the fire, even if it may have diminished some of the intensity of the visuals. I felt as if I had done the right human thing in the face of the immense chittering void—that zone of endless becoming I can’t shake the suspicion that I will face again one day, come bardo time.
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