Citation: vorpal. "The Ultimate Lack of Truth: An Experience with Nitrous Oxide (exp31722)". Erowid.org. Mar 10, 2004. erowid.org/exp/31722
I have been using nitrous oxide since 1998, when I first read about the substance online, researched it thoroughly, and decided that (due to the fact that it's largely not dangerous when done intelligently and in moderation) it was something I was very interested in experimenting with. I inhaled nitrous oxide for the first time, procured from a whipped cream canister and placed in a small plastic bag, and found the experience to be intensely physically pleasurable.
Since then, I have continued to use nitrous oxide, and I've found that with repeated uses, the effects have only grown considerably. My first major breakthrough with the gas occurred when a friend of mine (who would later become my boyfriend of four years), B, and I mixed nitrous oxide with low doses of both dextromethorphan and marijuana. We didn't anticipate a synergy, but suddenly, I was wildly hallucinating, and it made no difference whether or not my eyes were open or closed. A whole lifetime passed in the blink of an eye, and I found myself, an old man, standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful valley, waiting with a great sense of peace for death to overtake me. At this point, the drug wore off, and I was able to open my eyes. My sense of shock when I saw that it had all been nothing but an extremely short fantasy, and that I was still in my living room, was astounding. Even more shocking was the fact that B had had an extraordinarily similar experience.
Further experimentation began to challenge my ideas of time. Nitrous makes time seem incredibly chopped up and non-linear.
Several months after beginning with the substance, B and I began to mix it regularly with marijuana with fantastic results. I often recall jumping up from the bed after inhaling several whippets, shouting out things like, 'I see it all now! It all makes sense! I finally understand!', only moments after the drug wore off, I had no recollection of the revelations I'd experienced. However, the feeling was wildly liberating, and felt very much of being born again. The best part of all was that no matter how many times I did nitrous, it never ceased to happen, and every time, it was just as wonderful as it had been the first time.
Another profound change occurred when, one night, I mixed nitrous oxide with marijuana and a low dose of oxycodone. Suddenly, the air was dense with this beautiful pattern: purples and reds and blues danced together in this fascinating, repetitive, and highly geometrical configuration. When I came down, I couldn't remember the configuration for the life of me, but since that day, I've never not seen it upon inhaling nitrous.
Several months later, I began to sense other things during nitrous inhalations. There was a profound sense of deja-vu. I couldn't identify if such a thing was caused by a breakdown of the barrier between my conscious and unconscious mind (indeed, these deja-vus were accompanied by, or triggered by a series of random yet incredibly familiar images that flashed through my mind) or if there was something deeper to the phenomena. Furthermore, time began to seem even more non-linear: there was a sense that the time between the nitrous trips had been the trip, or imagined state, and the nitrous state was the true reality. Obviously, upon sobriety, I recognized that this was silly, but it brought several philosophically relevant questions to my mind about the nature of time. As well, the patterns I'd seen earlier began to demonstrate a recursive nature to them. I could 'zoom in' on the patterns while in the nitrous state, only to find that they were composed of smaller versions of themselves, which were composed of smaller versions of themselves, etc... This experience manifested itself in different ways, but was always very familiar with the same basic message.
The next important thing I recall was a resolution of opposites. Suddenly, it seemed that every concept and its opposite were intertwined in a critical way, and during the nitrous state, I was able to escape from the opposites and find harmony, objectively, in the middle.
Not only were the nitrous experiences getting more intense, but I was able to recall them with greater and greater degrees of clarity.
The concepts of infinity and recursion continued to escalate. It was like each time I did nitrous I was getting slightly higher and experiencing slightly more, as if the realizations that nitrous was giving me were building upon themselves and bringing me closer to a model of the universe that would make sense. Through mental models, reality began to seem more infinite than the human mind could possibly imagine. A distinct nitrous vision that I experienced many times involved traveling through a tunnel of reds and purples and blues. The tunnel proceeded infinitely in both directions, and I realized that it was pointless to move in either direction, so curiosity propelled me to escape from the tunnel. I moved through the wall, only to find myself in another such tunnel. Repeating this yielded more and more tunnels, and then plane upon plane of infinite tunnels, spaces of tunnels, hyperplanes of tunnels, etc... There was no limit to how many dimensions of these tunnels existed.
The most major breakthrough occurred on my 25th birthday, about four years after I'd begun using nitrous oxide. By this point, I'd probably inhaled nitrous oxide in excess of 500 times. I was laying on my bed, listening to some music, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was ready to take the next step.
Something absolutely terrifying happened, and to this day, I'm still not sure what I make of it. I inhaled the nitrous and laid back. The experience continued in the regular fashion, with the deja-vus accompanied by the mental images, the appearance of the pattern, severe disruptions in my conceptualization of time, and the appearance of the hyperdimensional tunnel array. However, suddenly, I felt myself get higher than I'd ever gotten before. The tunnels faded, and suddenly, I felt myself being propelled backwards, more and more quickly, through a passage. Unlike my movement through the tunnels, which had been rough and uneven, I receeded down the passage in an entirely smooth fashion, as if I was being 'sucked' evenly and perfectly from any semblance of reality that I'd ever experienced.
While all these concepts were far more abstract than they will seem presented here, I found 'myself' on a 'table' in a 'room'. I was in the presence of these 'beings', green and, as far as I could tell, not composed by matter in any dimensional sense. I got no sense of anything from them: I couldn't tell if they were malevolent, benevolent, curious, or anything for that matter. The next thing I knew, they were preparing to perform something resembling surgery on me. I felt neither terror nor excitement. I just was.
I came to several moments later. As the anaesthesia wore off, extreme fear began to set in. What had happened? Admittedly, the whole thing seemed wildly far fetched, but given that I'd put so much validity in my nitrous experiences up to that point, I either had to reject everything that had happened in the past or accept this encounter, as fantastically implausible as it seemed. And if the experience had some merit to it, then what had happened? What had these alien beings done to me?
I decided that the only way to get any more answers was to try to contact them again in the only way I knew how. I opened several more whippets and prepared to inhale.
What I experienced cannot be said in words. I became aware of the nature of myself as an infinite creature. I experienced the universe from its center, from the perspective of what might be termed god, or from a cosmic whole. I saw myself as a pattern of myself, created by myself and through myself, a chain of myself that existed only through observation. Every thought gave rise to an infinite number of new realities which spawned an infinite number of new realities. There was no frame of reference, no finity except to view the entire process as One Thing, One Entity, One Universe, One God, or Tao. There was no time; everything existed simply as a constructed illusion of thoughts cast forth from One Divine Moment which existed through observation but could not possibly exist as a logical construct.
It was the eternal paradox I'd experienced when I'd done nitrous the first few times and screamed of an enlightenment that was impossible to recall. Everything, the entire universe, flowed from a single point, infinitely small, but that was the universe itself: the ultimate recursion. The universe embedded in the universe embedded in the universe, only created through random chaos. Both beautiful and horrifying at the same time. Both reassuring and terrifying and yet neither. Every concept and its opposite could be applied to this situation, which only makes sense, as the universe contains, by its very definition, every concept and its opposite.
The experience was the most profound thing I've ever lived through, but also the most devastating. It was so painful to behold that I thought I might go insane. There was no familiar frame of reference. There were no constants. All there was was change and subjective experience. Objectivity was a construct of the human mind, because true objectivity implied a lack of anything, and a resolution of everything, leading to the paradox. And the paradox was fun to play with, but inherently useless, because to view things from this perspective made the universe impossible to comprehend. No assertions could be made - any statement could be shown to be true and false given appropriate finite or limitedly infinite frameworks, which are the only frameworks which can be fathomed. An unlimited infinite framework is exactly what the objective perspective presented, which yielded infinite and contradictory conclusions.
For hours after I came down, my mind raced in logical circles, typing out plausible model after model for the universe, each one both perfectly applicable but contradictory. They were beautiful and horrific. Nihilistic thought set in. Nothing had a point. Everything was transient, shifting, flowing. There was no point to life, but equally, no point to death. There was no point to staying in bed all day, but no point to getting up. Indeed, how could I possibly live my life in light of this knowledge? How could I find the motivation to do anything? The natural course of action seemed to be to delve into hedonism, but this itself was entirely pointless, unrealistic, and unrewarding, and seemed geared at simply hiding myself from the nature of reality that I had so desperately sought to learn and now wanted so desperately more than anything to unlearn.
I panicked after spending hours and hours typing contradictions, all unprovable but valid, on my laptop. I finally realized that I was trying to describe Tao, or the universe, using words, which is inherently impossible. How can you describe the infinite embodiment of everything using words? It is limitless (and also limited, but I won't play this game of opposite-opposite again, as it was what led me to damaging myself), and imposing any concept on it is limiting it. Everything was simply a matter of perception. Indeed, nothing existed outside of perception, outside of some sort of frame of reference. And as the infinite, unlimited frame of reference was completely limited, I could select any finite or limited infinite frame of reference, play and linger there for some time, and then shift to another. This was both liberating and horrifying, and it took me many, many months to realize that this was what I was doing. Even to this day, I still have many things to resolve regarding this experience.
For two days following that nitrous trip, the only thing that kept me from crying and freaking out was moderate doses of tranquilizers (alprazolam). I couldn't sleep or function without them. My mind needed quiet time to not think. I couldn't view reality the same anymore. There was no reality to view in my mind. I couldn't separate the god perspective of unlimited infinity from my previous limited experience and the rise of infinite limited experiences that I was now free to explore at my will. I began to have some really bizarre thoughts that were inspired by me trying to re-experience the unlimited experience. Had I created all of reality? I had. How, then, could I possibly exist as one individual amongst many if this was the case? Obviously, it would be profoundly silly to think that every person, every creature, every being, every object, every moment that I had met in my life were simply nothing more than constructs of my imagination, and that was certainly something that I couldn't believe admitting that the entire universe was just an insane creation of my mind.
I could rationalize this in a million different ways. Perhaps we each had our own singularverse, and this was mine, but that presented more questions than it answered. Were the people in my universe creations of my mind, or were they existent in overlapping singularverses? Who could tell? Perhaps we were all projections of one infinite thing onto a finite subset of dimensions. This made sense, but I could concoct other equally plausible but limited frameworks. It was a pointless mental exercise that I found I could obsess about for countless hours. It never got old, I never got concrete answers, and the only conclusion I could come to was that One Concrete Answer didn't exist. However, even in light of this, my mind couldn't rationalize this fact, and I felt that I needed to formulate an opinion. If I could just come up with one more model, perhaps I'd understand and see.
It was really a very painful process, and one which I'll never repeat again. It was horrendously traumatic, because it led me to a complete lack of understanding of the one thing I had sought to understand. Stuck viewing the universe from some perspective between the unlimited infinite and the limited, I began to wonder if I could control everything through my mind, if only I had the discipline. And perhaps everything that existed was somehow a sign that I'd created to point me in the direction I needed to go in to find control, to find answers.
What if I just stopped thinking? If the universe was created through my thoughts, then this would ultimately signify the end of everything. I was terrified of getting to this point, but then realized through some twisted trail of logic and previous nitrous experiences that to destroy everything would simply be to start it again. And this is perhaps what nitrous was doing! It was causing me to dissociate and garble my thought to the point where it was meaningless, and nothing more than a venture to the point of the origin of the universe, a point synonymous with the big bang, the big crunch, the present moment in its most discrete sense, a point which could not possibly exist! But it did exist, and this point embodied the whole universe in itself, because it both created and contained all things. It was a singularity, and infinitely recursive. It all came back to the one point, which was the unlimited perspective, and the creations, which are the limited perspectives. This is what I believe is ultimately pointed to by the first passage in Tao Te Ching:
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
(Chapter 1 of 'Tao Te Ching', By Lao Tzu, as translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English.)
I spent until December of 2002 in a state of distress. Three months of my life entailed obsessing over this experience, trying to rationalize, yet constantly failing. Finally, I realized that I had to relinquish or drive myself crazy, and this is what I did. I'm frightened to write this, fearful that by thinking about it, I'll fall back into the same trap. But the above passage brings me solace, because it mirrors exactly what I felt, and to know that others have gone through these things and still lived their lives is intensely reassuring.
In the following examination, please consider 'Tao', 'Universe', and 'God' to be synonymous. Use whatever term works for you.
'The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.'
To me, this implies that you can't talk about Tao in its infinite, unlimited form, as I stated above. Without limits, there is nothing to talk about.
'The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.'
The unlimited perspective is the creator and embodiment of all things. Through the limited perspectives, all things are created, all differences are observed. Opposite concepts manifest themselves: beauty exists because we create ugliness and vice versa. Tall comes into being because of short. Good becomes good because evil is recognized. By naming things, we observe them, and hence create them. As a poor analogy, a nose is just part of the face until it is named a nose. A face is just part of the head until it is named a face. The head is just part of the body until it is named the head. You can abstract this about anything to infinity.
'Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.'
This applies particularly to me, and I feel that it can be seen from several different perspectives. In my case, I was desiring to rationalize the mystery, which is impossible. I had to relinquish, to just let everything be. Everything is. This is the only sentence that truly makes sense in this context to me. Through desires, we focus on the specifics, and see the world in the traditional (and far more useful, in terms of interaction) sense.
'These two spring from the same source but differ in name; this appears as darkness.'
It's all just a matter of perspective.
'Darkness within darkness. The gate to all mystery.'
Recursion. The unlimited and limited perspective are linked and dependent on each other and give rise to one another. The ultimate opposite-opposite coupling. The whole universe is based on opposites, embedded in one another, creating one another. What created the first opposite? It always existed, which means that everything always existed. This is Tao. Constant and changing. *insert another infinite number of pairs of opposites here*
I rarely use nitrous anymore. It tends to plummet me back into a nihilistic perspective of the universe, leaving me feeling hopeless and unable to sleep or function. That state is not useful to me, and so, I avoid it. Indeed, all drugs, from a spiritual standpoint, seem useless to me at this point, because there is no more understanding to be gained. There is nothing new to be learned. Perhaps there is and I just can't even begin to fathom it, but if there is, I don't know that I want to see it. It was always my goal to come to a deeper understanding of reality, and I would never have been happy until I reached that point. Now I feel that I have reached that point, only I'm more confused than when I started, and far less happy. I regret bringing myself to this stage, but know that it was inevitable. However, I've learned my lesson, and feel that I must proceed with caution, if at all, with regards to these matters.
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