THE REEF

Eruthus

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Several weeks ago I had the strongest and most beautiful psychedelic experience of my life. I wrote most of the following exactly one day afterward.

At 8:00 PM I took a cutting from my Wasson/Hoffman Salvia divinorum plant. I removed ten very large leaves and set the stalk with four small leaves to root. I brushed my teeth, cheeks, and gums, but did not use mouthwash. I cleaned and prepared my trip room, then put on Aphex Twin Selected Ambient Works Vol II and reclined in a comfortable chair. It was twilight at 8:30 PM when I began to chew the leaves.

At five minutes my limbs felt heavy and underwater: the now-familiar feeling of salvia onset. I knew this time would be powerful; sometimes I felt nothing for the first ten minutes. I smiled at those who think only Mexican-grown Salvia is worth using.

I closed my eyes and focused on my intention for the trip, one which, admittedly, could have been a disaster: I intended to think about Death and see what I might intuit.

I am an atheist, a materialist, and a believer in western science. I think that if the human race overcomes death, it will be through hook and crook, through biochemistry and genetic engineering. One day this might happen, but not in my lifetime. Therefore I have tried very hard to resign myself to the finality of Death, to the fact that one day I will cease to exist.

As I was rehearsing these things in my mind, focusing on the idea of Death, I realized that I was a part of something. My first name for it was the Form, but I later began calling it the Frame. My arms and legs were connecting me to it; I could feel the connections they made.

The Frame was biomorphic. It resembled antlers made out of glowing fiber. Some areas were sharp and pointed, while others were knobby or bloblike. I could see out to some of the other parts besides myself. The whole thing was a huge, tangled, convoluted structure. I soon realized that every connection was a personal relationship, and every node an individual.

I was not the least bit frightened. My physical body was making noises like it was afraid, but I don't know why, since my mind had never been more exhilarated. The Frame was a part of me, and I of it. It loved me, and although I didn't know it very well yet, I loved it too. It positively glowed with happiness. The Frame radiated waves of warmth and light toward my lover, who was trip- sitting in another part of the house. The frame glowed and was at peace.

Peace was not inactivity, however. Parts of the frame moved; appendages swung back and forth; smooth surfaces throbbed, ebbed, and heaved. Ripples appeared and grew into new branches.

I asked the Frame about Death, and it answered. It showed me the death of another section like myself. There was a light within that part of the frame, and the light went out. The fibrous material that had constituted the section went rigid, ossified, and the Frame itself planted new buds atop it. I saw myself in a similar place one day. The dead give structure to the Frame. Their lives create its shape.

As I was coming down much later, I found a very good analogy for the frame: Imagine a coral reef. Indeed, a coral reef almost perfectly describes it, except for the profound intelligence and love that I felt. Calling it the Reef would be the best name of all I think.

I was enjoying where I was, feeling it and loving it, when something equally moving but a whole lot sillier happened. Two entities came to me. Unlike the Frame, I could not "see" them with my visual cortex. Still, I was certain of their existence. When I used the word "see" to describe the event later, I got asked what the entities looked like--I was bemused, since it had never occurred to me. I knew they were small, very wise, and very playful. They were simply a disturbance of some kind, and when pressed to describe them visually I compared them to the dimple that forms above a drain as the water has just begun to leave.

The entities were NOT a part of the Frame (which, after all, I took for the web of human life). They were from the spirit world. The entities made me an offer that ran something like this:

"You are here, in our world now. And we are real to you. After a time, though, you will be sober and back in the mundane world. You will tell N., your lover, about us. And then you will give him a choice. Ask him whether a) we're real; or b) you've just made us up to see if he'll believe. Perhaps you really met two non-corporeals while tripping, or perhaps you made it up. Ask him what he thinks."

I really wanted to tell N. right away, so I opened my eyes to go downstairs. The oriental rug in the room had turned into a living, writhing Mesopotamian ziggurat. The patterns in the rug had attained full three-dimensionality. They were battlements that swam with tiny flower-bearing guardians, armored soldiers, and magi in robes and mitres. The entire thing looked colossal. I am embarrassed at my irreverent responses:

"This beats the shit out of DXM." Two weeks ago I'd been fascinated by looking at the rug on DXM.

A few moments later, as I watched the changing of the guard at the Tower of Babel: "I guess that's what they mean by an open-eye visual."

I looked to the CD player (I couldn't think of the name and called it a "radio" when I tried to describe it): "The radio is aeons away." Space had become time. Though the CD player was only about eight feet from my chair, the Tower of Babel lay between, across shimmering centuries of hardwood floor.

"Hey N., come up here," I said. I was too quiet, though, and he didn't hear me. Or perhaps I didn't really say it; I'm not sure. I figured the trip wasn't done with me yet, so I closed my eyes and tried to find the frame.

It found me; from this point on I was unaware of my body. Instead, I had multiple appendages and felt more like a spider web than a human being. From the spirit world, it seemed like I could travel to millions of other lifetimes or existences besides my own, all by following the threads. How would I ever get back to tell N. about the entities? How could I figure out which life was mine? The little ones wanted me to give N. their puzzle, and if I accidentally came back as something besides myself, I might never get the chance. I LIKE my life, I thought--But then I was struggling to remember it as though it were a dream. "I want to be with N."--Now that helped me remember. I want to be back.

The frame comforted me again: "Look for your mouth," it said.

I found my mouth. It was still chewing leaves. I made it swallow. Somehow I could watch the process from inside myself. From then on I was able to maintain (awareness of) my physical body as long as I concentrated on it.

"Can you come up here?" I asked loudly. I'd staggered from the chair, down the short hallway, to the bedroom. I sprawled on the bed. I can barely remember having moved.

"How are you doing?" he asked.

"I need you to hold my hand. I keep turning immaterial, and it's getting a little scary by myself." Flowers were invading my mindscape; it was hard to focus on eye-seeing when the visions were pressing in on every other front. I felt I might go immaterial even with my eyes open.

"How long has it been?"

"Two hours," I said. I had no idea, but I did know that "two hours" was a unit of time, so I figured it was a good guess. It had been fifteen thousand aeons since I'd sat in the chair, but somehow I knew they didn't really count.

"It's been forty-five minutes."

N. held my hand. I started trying to tell him about the entities. I managed to get out most of their story in some form or other, but I was still tripping very hard when I figured out what they were.

"OH MY GOD, I KNOW WHAT THEY WERE--I SAW THE CHILDREN! I SAW THE CHILDREN!"

I'd have frightened anyone else with my yelling. But N. knows my emotions well; he knew I was elated, not upset. N. has never read anything by Gordon Wasson, however, so he had no idea what I was talking about. I had to explain the little ones, the mischievous, wise little people associated with the mushrooms, and less often with DMT and salvia.

I had seen them, been with them, talked to them. I'd taken a step toward becoming a shaman, not even meaning to. Somehow I managed to communicate all of this to N., including the questions they'd posed me, while still tripping. Then I asked him, "So, were they real? Or did I just make them up?"

"Of course they were real. You wouldn't make up something like that."

No, of course I wouldn't. The joke was on me, and there's no way I'd ever fake something like that.

I was hoping to learn something about myself, and I learned and learned and learned.... I felt honored and humbled, almost embarrassed, like I'd won the Nobel Prize for something I'd spilled back in high school chem lab. I couldn't possibly deserve it. I forced myself to stop talking about the children after a while to tell N. about the other parts of the trip.

At T+1:30 I felt more or less back to baseline. For the rest of the night I sometimes felt slightly odd in ways I couldn't explain. Usually it was just a moment of surprise at being here, in this particular life--and surprise, too, that I'd seen the children. I felt very, very happy about the whole experience. Sleep was excellent. The next day no trouble concentrating on my job. On the contrary, I felt unusually happy, focused, aware, and productive. I even solved several problems that had stumped my co-workers. The hangover, if there was one, was positive.