LSD 25 and a vision of cosmic energy

On one occasion the effect of LSD on me was nearly disastrous. It was provided in Oslo in 1965 for my wife and I by a friend, Noel Cobb, when we visited from Sweden where we were residing that year. After a while in which everything became more confused, I was plunged into some mental infinity where there was no perception of time at all. In some whirlpool of eternal repetition of thoughts and perceptions, all things seemed infinitely hopeless and without rhyme or reason. There seemed to be no hope of escape, a very terrible condition indeed, a veritable hell! This seemed to have lasted for ever... except that I recovered and found that about six hours had passed since we took the psychedelic. Nothing more terrible than that eternal or recurrent perceptions can I imagine. I was occasionally aware of my physical surroundings and the persons I was with, but reality seemed to have evaded my grasp. For anyone who is trapped long enough in that sort of sphere I must say that suicide would become most attractive.

However, suddenly I felt a tremendous wave of force pressing against me, like super gravity, which increased until I was as if blown out like a candle. (I use this phrase simply to describe what the experience was, not simply because this is a phrase used in Zen Buddhist literature to describe illumination or 'satori'). It was an intensely painful sense of being physically and mentally nililated, yet it all happened so rapidly that there was hardly any time for fear. The result of this was that I suddenly felt weightless and immaterial... my whole awareness was absorbed in an astonishing and wonderful movement of waves of light-energy in space, extending as far as vision could extend in every direction. The room I was in 'before nihilation' was totally absent from vision, and from my thoughts too! The multiform luminous waves, all organised in perfect but incomprehensible symmetry, criss-crossed at any level I happened to focus on... they were very varied in movement, rhythm and pulse but were not coloured, though the effect was still somehow one of a brilliant multi-coloured display. They were an embodiment of ineradicable, secure, effortless power. No single epithet I know better captures the whole than Shiva's cosmic energy dance. The beauty was ineffable, conveying a great sense of awe. As far as I was able to register time, the whole revelation must have taken much less than a minute.

The waves moved with serpentine ease. They were of all different amplitudes, all shaped most regularly, just like the way we illustrate an electric wave of alternating current, yet they flowed in streams through one another in three-dimensional patterns - perhaps mostly at right angles - while some flowed easily against or through one another in opposite directions. This created centres of concentrated light where waves intersected at regular intervals in every direction. All this was simultaneous and symmetrical... any change in the whole vision seemed to arise solely from the change in my focus of attention, whereby a quite different patterning of the wave-forms became evident, as if I were looking into a new dimension. In describing these waves, I face what seems to be the same dilemma as physicists have had in respect of the particle vs. wave theory of light. The waves consisted somehow in energetic particles, yet the movements of these were so flowing and regular as to give the impression of waves of light, flashing on and off so fast that they nearly make continuous lines.

I call it a 'dance' of energy because, despite the regularity and symmetry at one level, the whole unfoldment gave no sense of anything mechanical. Rather, it was a living manifestation that gave a feeling of a supreme intelligence in or behind it. I felt my consciousness drawn towards it and I completely lost awareness of myself in it for some time, as if I were 'blown away' again, yet now without any pressure or resistance. Then I seemed to recover my sense of 'I' again and I was a mere witness to the dance again.

It was mesmerising and I believe I could have watched it endlessly without loss of fascination. But as I became more accustomed and the mind began to try to grasp this, the thought came to me, 'Who am I? Where is this?' I was feeling the need of orientation and security. Immediately, the room came into existence around me - as if superimposed on these energies of light by some means I can perhaps best call as 'assymetric cancelling'. There was a brief transition period while the room became more stable in my perception, rather as when one awakens and it takes some moments to collect consciousness of the surroundings. I was left with the impression that the physical perception of the room was but the awareness of a very small part of that plenitude of energy, a non-symmetrical part which arose only when all the rest was cancelled out. Further, the 'room-as-perceived' seemed such a meagre representation of the reality 'behind' it that the thought was there that many other scenes - perhaps any scene imaginable - was also 'contained' as a potentiality within that fullness.

The only comparable 'normal' or controllable experience to this I have since had is when concentrating the eyes very fixedly for at least some minutes on a point at the centre of a large symmetrical mandala image. As long as attention stayed on the centre-point, the symmetry was there as the background. But as soon as the gaze strayed a little to one side, a kind of 'cancelling' of the symmetry arose, giving the impression of irregular configurations of the many forms that made up the mandala. As if the design contained many other designs, according to which shape was made the focus - and consequently how all the other shapes that were no longer arranged symmetrically around the original centre - thus formed a different configuration as background. The room I 'returned to' was like one of these countless possible 'off-centre' perceptions.

An image comes to mind to illustrate how the room 'appeared' as part of the ocean of light: suppose a number of transparents are dotted with small opaque dots so that, only when all are superimposed exactly upon one another, does a full symmetrical design appear. Take out any of the transparents and you will have an apparently random configuration which has only part of the whole and exhibits little or none of its symmetry. Yet the room and its contents somehow arose in time and space through a very much more convoluted process than my image suggests. It was as through by the convergence of some part of the plenum of energies, a part consisting of various wavelengths moving at different speeds and rhythms.

Another image that may help to describe it is the photographic negative. Before seeing the image that develops in the chemical bath, the uniform film surface gives no hint of what possibilities are contained therein. Which image appears, and exactly how it turns out, cannot be known exactly until an actual print is made. For me, the return of the room I was in all the time was a surprise that might match that of a child seeing a film developed for the first time!

The vision was not quite over, because I was able by closing my eyes - and perhaps making some effort of concentration - very briefly indeed to glimpse that sphere of dancing light 'behind' the apparent room, even though my eyes were closed this time! Then it faded and I was quite unable to see it again.

A most perplexing 'fact' in all this was how a physical room could seem suddenly to arise - and depart - on such a' basis' by the mere act of perception. In recalling the room, it re-constituted itself or was 're-membered' in a flash, and the details of it I had registered before my 'departure' were present again and intact. If what we see is indeed but the product of consciousness, what then of the energy dance itself? It appeared to gave itself as being that upon which all else figures... similar to a screen behind fleeting images upon it. The sense that my awareness was temporarily lost, drowned in that sea of energy, suggests that there is a close connection, even an identity in kind, between individual consciousness and that cosmic unfoldment.