Citation: WordsofTruth. "What Does It Feel Like to Die?: An Experience with Ketamine (exp84094)". Erowid.org. Oct 27, 2010. erowid.org/exp/84094
||(powder / crystals)
'A place to live unharmed by death
Does not exist
Not in space, not in the sea
Nor if you stay in the midst of mountains.'
Buddha says that a healthy contemplation of death throughout your lifetime helps to counteract the misguided notion that life is permanent. Yet ironically we who live in the West are rarely privy to the one phenomenon that we will certainly come to us all. Nothing in life is certain, except that on day life as we know it will be no longer. Death is hidden away, swept under the carpet, kept behind closed doors. And the reasons for this are as numerous as they are varied, death is private, it is sad, it forces us to confront our mortality, to take a long hard look at our life and to decide whether or not we are satisfied that we have put our time on earth to good use. Did I make a difference? Has my life amounted to something? Did I learn whatever it is I was put on earth to learn? These are all questions that resonate amongst all of us as members of the human race, regardless of our culture, our nationality or our religion. But if death is hidden away from us, and if the culture we are brought up in eschews the idea of contemplating death; considers it to be morbid and unnatural. Then how are we ever to understand what death is? What death feels like?
Two years ago I experienced death, and the experience was so enormous, so profound, that the memory I have of it has been seared into my inner most being and will remain with me until the day I experience it again in earnest. For me death was the most incredible, breathtaking, terrifying, eye-opening and deeply, deeply spiritual experience I have ever had. It quite literally brought me to my knees, it unleashed an inhuman scream, a scream that rippled across the universe. It was the scream of a being experiencing his true nature for the first time. My near death experience occurred two years ago, and although I have only just now plucked up the motivation to write about it, not one day has gone by when I haven’t thought of it and revisited the place I was transported to. The realm of the eternal. The divine source.
My story is by no means exceptional. There were no apparitions of the Virgin Mary, no tunnel of light, nor life review. For me death was quite simply an unveiling of reality – Samsara and a complete and utter shattering of my 'ego' or 'self'. I have told the story of what happened to me to many people but this is the first time I’ve ever tried to put this ineffable experience into some kind of narrative.
I spent a lot of time in nightclubs as a gay Australian male. And with that territory inevitably came the temptation of recreational drugs – a temptation I’m not exactly thrilled to admit I gave into. I was never a big drug user to be fair…but over the course of approximately ten years I did experiment quite heavily with drugs. And to make matters worse I’m very much an 'all or nothing' type of person, so when I did venture down that path, it wasn’t just a little way, it was as far as I could push myself. The week before my 27th birthday I went out with my boyfriend at the time to the same nightclub I’d been going to for the last ten years, and like many a night we decided to drop ecstasy -…nothing exciting, it wasn’t very good and I remember being a little dismayed that I hadn’t had the euphoric night I’d been craving. It was then I decided to go in search of some ketamine. Ketamine was not a drug I knew an awful lot about, I’d tried it a few times in small doses and had quite good experiences on it. Had I known then what I now know about what larger quantities of the drug are capable of doing I think I would have run ten miles in the opposite direction before putting the chemical up my nose. Needless to say I was handed some very strong ketamine and warned to only take a small amount – advice I ignored. I snorted a very very large line of very pure ketamine with the ensuing result being the story I’m about to tell now, and the catalyst for my creating this entire blog. The ensuing result was that I experienced death… no ifs, not buts or no maybes about it.
I will borrow the following text detailing what a schizophrenic break feels like, a scientific explanation for what occurs when the ego collapses.
“To produce a schizophrenic break you need to collapse the ego, preferably as rapidly as possible. There are different ways of defining the ego but I define it thusly: The ego is a structure of the personality that is made up of what we believe to be true about ourselves, others, the world around us, and our place in it. We form these beliefs as based on our relationships, our experiences, the roles we play and the activities we engage in. All of these combined, create our ego -- which is, for most of us, our sense of who we are.”
Please note I have rewritten the following account incorporating some extracts from the Spiritual Emergency blog which I think puts my experience into words better than I could have myself.
'The overall experience is described as falling into a kind of abyss of isolation. This comes about because there is such a discrepancy between the subjective inner world that one has been swept into, and the mundane everyday world outside…. It is like falling into a death - not only a death state, but also a death space - the 'afterlife,' the 'realm of the ancestors,' the 'land of the dead,' the 'spirit world.' The common experience here is for the person to look about and think that half the people around him are dead too. While in this condition, it's very hard for one to tell if one is really alive or not.'
For me it was as though I’d somehow managed to tear through the fabric of reality and to step behind the scenes of the world. Everything moved in slow motion in an endless cycle. I remember being overwhelmed at the very first sight of seeing the universe endlessly revolving in upon itself, as it had done for eons, and as it would continue to do for eternity. The universe is cyclical, a perfect circle, it had no beginning and it will have no end.
'Right away at the beginning, the death experience is accompanied by the feeling that you've gone back to the beginning of time. This involves a regression, a return to the state of infancy in one's personal life history. But hand in hand with this is the feeling of slipping back into the world of the primordial parents, into a Garden of Eden. For example, it's a very common experience to feel one is the child of Adam and Eve, say, at the beginning of time. This is very symbolic, obviously. It's pretty much a representation of the psyche at the start of one's individual career after birth.'
I remember distinctly having memories of Adam and Eve and the other narratives I’d read about in the bible. Words and phrases would rise in my mind, as though the entire experience was being narrated to me by some divine voice. Or perhaps it was just my own voice. The voice of the eternal 'I' that had always been there underneath 'self' but who had been drowned out by the incessant chatter of the mind. The phrase “That’s life” passed through my mind again and again as though I was realising for the first time what 'life' actually was. I remember seeing language as an entity unto itself, seeing the spirit of language… it is alive and it sustains this life as we transmit it from generation to generation. I remember seeing all the meaning bundled up in a word like 'love' and feeling it with the same intensity as if for that split second the voices of every single human being who had ever uttered it were coursing through my mind.
I remember the phrase 'The Game of Life' passing through my stream of consciousness and laughing as I saw for the first time the mechanics of this game unfolding before my eyes. I remember repeating a word over and over in my head. It was not an English word and to this day I don’t know how to write it or what language it is. I do however know what the word means. The word being spoken to me from the inner most depths of my soul was my name, not the name I have been given in this lifetime, but my eternal name, the name I have remembered at the point of all my previous deaths, and the name I will continue to remember for as many lives as I am forced to wander through Samsaric existence.
I saw all the people in my life as though they were characters in 'My Story', some of them good, some of them malevolent...but all of them were there for a purpose, to teach me something about myself, to allow me to grow as a spirit. It was as though we were all intertwined in a great eternal narrative and that each of us in our various lives plays a role in order for others to grow. Suddenly it was as though everybody in the room turned to face me and I felt all of the cells in my body tremble. The thought passed through my consciousness, 'I am about to die… I know what’s going to happen now…this moment is about to be the moment of my death.' I felt all the people in the room turn in slow motion to look at me, as though something profound was about to happen.
Again there was a primordial word for it that I heard from someone in the room. 'He’s about to go through his……(then the primordial word for death).' Suddenly it was as though all the cells in my body turned to water and I quite literally felt myself collapse into the ground, back into the very universe from which I first sprung. I let out a cry, an inhuman scream from the very depths of my soul. It is a sound I never realised I could make, a sound that my friends told me later literally stopped every person in the club in their tracks and caused them to look over to where I had collapsed. As I collapsed into the ground I was screaming at the top of my lungs the word for my name, as though this unearthly scream of my primordial name could somehow force me to remember who I was and where I had come from. My friends picked me up and it was as though somehow all the cells in my body reformed and I came out the other side. It was as though for one brief instant instead of cycling in upon itself, the universe passed one cycle through my body. As I got up I could see my two close friends comforting me 'See, you’re going to be ok, it’s ok. You’re going to be ok because death is not the end, it is just the end of one cycle and the beginning of another'
“All kinds of imagery comes tumbling across the field of awareness. It's like the mythological image in a perfect stained-glass window being smashed, and all the bits and pieces being scattered. The effect is very colourful, but it's very hard to discern how the pieces belong to each other. Any attempt to make sense of it is an exercise in abstraction from the actual experience. The important thing is to find the process running through it all.”
I am writing this because I am sure if you are reading this you have perhaps gone through a profound spiritual transformation yourself or are looking at taking ketamine to do so. A word of warning, whilst I don't regret what happened to me, I have spent the last 6 months on anti-depressants to control the anxiety that developed, have begun seeing a therapist to help me through this spiritual emergence, and have now become a practicing Buddhist (I was atheist before, so as you can imagine, that's a pretty big spiritual jump to make.) I am happy to talk with people who have been through similar experiences
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