JOURNAL YEAR 1 /7
It wasn’t fun, exactly, but I wouldn’t have missed it. A bad trip is still a trip; and quite a trip at that.
My friend Jim worries about me doing this. Jim makes fine guitars; I call him the Just Artisan; he’s always saying ‘I’m just an artisan, but…’ before coming out with something visionary. He tells me I’ve got an angel watching over me, so he shouldn’t worry too much. But he thinks psychedelics are dangerous. And you know what, Jim? You’re right. I just found out.
I was open. The doors of perception… not that they were hanging off their hinges or anything, but they were certainly creaking. Shaman Nueng had seemed in a bad mood, stomping around looking for the blender. The brew he produced was foul, and he’d done a pretty cursory job with the mixer. I was gagging and shuddering and picking stringy bits of stalk from between my teeth as I swallowed it down. And it was strong. By the time I’d driven back up here to my ocean terrace, I could feel the edge of it already coming on.
At the same time, something else was coming on too, something beautiful — a lightning storm out over the bay as it got dark. No rain or wind, not on this side of the bay anyway, just the sky cracking and crackling over the ocean, and me with the mushrooms coming on strong, thinking, this is going to be amazing, and then —
Something flew in.
I know. I was surprised, too.
You should keep your house more clean, says my friend Ranel. They won’t come if you keep everything tidy.
Ranel’s a lovely guy, but he’s also full of shit. I often tell him so.
I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. An impression of dark wings, sleek, luminous black, and my skin crawled all over in a predator reponse. Horror — the Latin word meaning to bristle. I responded to it as a compelling threat, as impossible to ignore as a circling shark, or a jaguar lurking beyond the light of a campfire.
There was no ‘Please allow me to introduce myself’, nothing like that. One moment I was settling in to watch the lightning show, and the next he was just there. I had the impression he came in on the storm, somehow; perhaps on magnetic fields associated with those huge discharges of electricity. I believe some investigators of paranormal phenomena have made a connection between ghost sightings and magnetic anomalies. Perhaps there’s something in that, though it doesn’t necessarily explain anything away. But maybe there’s a reason for the horror movie cliché.
I had a housemate for a while who had a PhD in physics and had been a rising star in the scientific world before he’d gone into teaching. French-Moroccan, he was a faithful though not observant Moslem, which made it interesting: a physicist who believed in God, or The Architect, in his phrase. We had some great discussions. I would remind him, whenever he tried to pull rank on me, that science is a branch of philosophy; and I asked him once whether it was possible to conceive of an entity that was physical but not biological, whether a conscious entity could feasibly be composed of light, say, or plasma? He gave me that characteristic French ‘ba-ouay’ — of course. Why not?
I knew where I was, my bungalow on a steep promontory, surrounded by trees — but I felt as if I’d passed through some kind of invisible membrane and become sensitive to a rip current of forces I couldn’t normally feel. My window on the electromagnetic spectrum dilated like the iris of an eye… and then a wave of nausea hit me and I threw up over the wall. Pools of intense white light revolved like searchlights; dendritic lightnings branched horizontally across the bay. I turned, spitting shreds of acrid mushroom and snarling. And there it was over by the rail. No, by the steps. No, under the trees.
Wherever I sensed it, I rounded on it, hissing in fury like a cat, contorting my face into pure hostility against this thing, whatever it was. Satan! I called it.
No, man, no, says Ranel, shaking his head. You have to make friends with them. It’s OK, they can help you.
Yeah, bro, just be nice to them, they won’t hurt you.
Like I said, I love Ranel.
Is that what your demon told you? I ask him. The one that lives inside you?
Ranel appreciates the out-manoevre. Yeah right, OK, I have demon who live inside me, whatever, he laughs.
I lean forward and focus on the middle of his forehead. WHO ARE YOU? I demand.
What? I’m Ranel, what you talking about, man?
I’m not talking to you, Ranel. WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU WANT?
His demon doesn’t answer, and I didn’t ask mine that question, or not directly. I didn’t want to know what it wanted; that would have felt, somehow, like the continuation of an old and tedious argument. And I wasn’t going to give this thing one millimetre of tolerance. If that’s even the right word.
I surprised myself.
I’m reminded of a story I read in a comic book when I was in my early teens. I’ve thought of it many times since; it seemed to encapsulate something. It was only two or three pages long, and I think it was called ‘Monster At My Window’. We meet the hero, who is a journalist, and he’s working at his desk in his apartment, late at night, when he sees a hideous space monster looking in through the window. Instead of panicking or cowering, he reacts aggressively, racing up the stairs of the apartment block to confront the thing on the roof, even though he wouldn’t stand a chance against it: it’s two or three times his size. He’s a standard, clean-cut, handsome leading-man type dressed in a white shirt, blue jeans and a tan belt, but on the roof, dwarfed by his alien opponent, he begins to shape-shift, turning into an equally huge, hideous monster of a different species. Defiant words are exchanged and the two grapple each other in a fight for the future of the planet, high above the streets, silhouetted against the skyline.
And that’s how I felt… like I didn’t even know what I was. I might look human… Well, you can read your Kant and understand the distinction between noumenon and phenomenon, the inaccessible deep realities behind or within every appearance, and knowing there’s more to everything still forget to ask: ‘What more is there to me?’ What is the noumenon, the ding-an-sich of the human being? Do I know what I am? I could feel myself changing, somehow, faced with this thing, and not shrinking but growing, the phenomenon of ‘me’ merging into its noumenon until there were only these two Blakean archetypes facing off on a terrace above the ocean.
Satan! I hissed. The restaurant was already closed and dark, but there were people sleeping nearby, and I didn’t want them to hear me screaming at the devil on a Tuesday night.
Enunciated clearly through clenched teeth, my words — and my voice! — surprised me.
And it’s NOT YOU!
How smug, how clever and silently amused that demon was, strutting and preening and laughing at me. In fact my interview with the Divoc was largely one-sided. I was doing all the talking. But then, he didn’t need to say anything. We understood each other.
Aren’t you going to tempt me? I asked. It’s a bit late, I said. Not a good deal. Maybe if you’d come for me in my thirties or forties I might have considered it.
But it wasn’t that.
The way that Divoc preened and gloated. I knew why.
Nothing can stop what is coming, he seemed to say.
You think I don’t know that?
Well, then. Enjoy the show.
I’m trying to, but it’s not easy with a fucking Divoc hanging around me.
I know what you are!
It would not go away. I’d long since emptied my stomach in the bathroom and over the wall. The devil didn’t stink, that was me.
Over and over.
There is only one God!
And so we went on for what felt like hours, though it’s hard to tell, and difficult to co-ordinate with other things happening not far away. Only a few hundred meters, in fact, as the crow flies. Down at Jamrock, my young Belarusian friends Sasha and Dasha had rented the tall hut from Nueng for the night, so that they could try mushrooms for the first time. It seems Nueng had managed to overdose them as well, giving them much more than the half dose they’d asked for as an introduction to the mystery. It had been great at first, Sasha tells me, everything beautiful, but after dark the feeling had changed.
There were demons everywhere, says Dasha.
That’s the word she used — demon — it’s the same word in Russian. Dasha’s a professed atheist, a pharmacist by trade, with a scientific-atheistic outlook, but that’s the word she used. Things had got out of control for a while; at one point she was trying to force her fist down Sasha’s throat to grab a demon that had gone inside him.
It wasn’t until later that I found out that there’d been a third group of trippers, Megan and Kittiya, who were up at the boat bar on the road. Megan’s grandmother back in the Phillipines is a shaman, so she took it somewhat in her stride, but she was feeling the presence of something dark, as she said, a big dark man in charge of this place: I didn’t know if she meant Jamrock, or the world. The two girls climbed up the spiral staircase to the shrine on the top deck, looking for protection, and forgetting that in the centre of the collection of icons Nueng had placed one of those black-faced demon figures, its face contorted in fury.
That didn’t help.
So three different groups of people separate from each other had the same experience. Different batches of mushrooms, too: Nueng had slung what was left of the older batch into my blender, while the ones the others got were fresh that day. Logically, the stimulus we experienced must have been exogenic in some way, though our concurrent interpretations of the experience arguably don’t prove anything beyond the same predator response, the sensation of horror, and cultural influences.
It’s in the nature of psychedelic experience that you don’t remember most of it. Some fragments might be scorched into your mind, but most of it disappears like mist under the light of language. For me, it was what I’d experienced of myself that stayed with me from that night; that hissing, snarling fury that came out of me, that sensation of being clad in armour… pure hubris, no doubt. Like I said to Phoebe, once, on a different matter; there are so many ways they can fuck with you.
I decided that this demon must be a Divoc, which is not only the Hebrew word for demon, but the word ‘covid’ spelled backwards. In other words, there was a reason I was seeing it now. I’d been bristling with horror from the beginning of the covid campaign — I knew what it was; a friend on the inside called me a couple of months in, but I’d long since worked it out for myself. It’s not difficult, if you’ve ever peeped beneath the skirts, as Joe Orton put it, of society. It’s not rocket science — it’s not even virology, truth be told, because they tore up everything we knew and substituted a crude and contradictory simulacrum, enough merely to fool the masses, and as with all their false flags the story falls apart under the slightest critical scrutiny. But it was working; the island had just shut down again; back in the UK my blood relatives were getting themselves shot up with experimental injections full of undeclared ingredients. And this Divoc, it seemed to me, was here to to show off. I think it sought me out because I knew what we’re on the verge of; this visit was pure narcissistic display. Was it interested in me? Well, I suppose it must have been, to a degree.
You think you’re so… knowledgeable, it was saying. And you are — you know about me. Well done. But do really think that’s going to help you?
Always answer a question with a question.
Why do you care about me? I said. I am nothing — NOTHING!
But we both knew that wasn’t true, and in any case, the devil cares about everyone. Every last one of us. Of course he does.
My demon seemed like a direct personification of my experience of the COVID pandemic: my immediate recognition of what it was; my visceral rejection of the whole shitshow, my resolution not to compromise in any way with this fascist New Normal, regardless of consequences. My interview with the Divoc had all the same constituents: horror, defiance, certainty — it was the same mytheme played out in symbolic terms: a projection of my consuming preoccupation with the war that is ‘everywhere and all the time, on every level, even in the cells of your body’ but was now so menacingly obvious; my nauseated revulsion at ‘the capillary functioning of power’.
So I understood why I was having this experience. Above all, the thing which seems so sleazily demonic about the COVID psy-op, which seems like a signature or invisible watermark certifying the origins of the production — is its preoccupation with extracting consent; the seduction of the victim into destroying themselves. No one forces them to take the shot; they do it of their own volition. For the best of reasons, they think; to protect others. And they do it so they can work, or travel, or feed their family, or have a social life — whatever the reason, they consent. Nobody has to pin them down and rape them with a needle. They do it to themselves. The liability, the karma, is theirs.
And having taken it into their bodies, it’s not the shot that kills them; not directly. The mRNA code tricks cells all over the body into producing the spike protein as an antigen; but then the killer lymphocytes — it’s so obvious once you realise — start to kill the infected cells, attacking every organ in the body and ripping up the endothelium, the lining of your vessels and organs. So your body destroys itself, and oh, yes, the Divoc likes that. He fucking loves it. He wants me to appreciate the beauty of the trap he has set for humanity.
And I do. Oh, I do.
You do realise, don’t you, that none of them will listen to you? says the Divoc. Not one. They will hate you for even trying to warn them.
He grins at me. Checkmate, baby!
I say nothing. Has he gone? I don’t turn when he speaks from behind me.
‘And you — you think I can’t make you kill yourself too?’ He chuckles. ‘You’ve been doing it all your life!’
Lightning strikes the water, at the mouth of the bay. I swear I see silver circles of power rippling out from the impact under the water.
I was getting mightily pissed off with this devil. And I don’t know what to make of this myself, haven’t quite come to terms with its implications yet, and I’m not even sure I should talk about it. But the Divoc just would not go away, though there was nothing left to say, and finally it occurred to me to try using the name of Jesus Christ, and see if that had any effect. I’m not a Christian, which is why I suppose I didn’t think of it earlier, but I was raised in that tradition.
…in nomine Iesu Christi Domine…
That’s all it took. It was immediate, almost comical, the way that thing high-tailed it, trailing flickers of lightning across the bay. I could breathe easy for the first time in what felt like hours, and enjoy what was left of the beautiful storm. I felt cleansed, and strong.
So does that make me a Christian, now? I don’t know. I claim no understanding of what the Christ is. All I can say is I felt the mysterious power of the name, and it solved my problem. I offered a prayer in thanks, next day. Best to show some gratitude, when someone lets you use their name like that. Next time, if there’s a next time, I’ll use it sooner. That fucking Divoc ruined what would have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But it was what it was, and I was satisfied; it hadn’t got anything out of me.
As for the ontological question — do these things exist? and in what sense of that word? — it seems there is no simple resolution unless one is happy to shrug and dismiss the experience as just a crazy dream which you thought was real, like every other dream you’ve ever had.
Perhaps I will have to reconsider my psilocybin theory. OK, then — it was a projection of my heightened perception of the current crisis and what lies behind it, and my decision to make no accommodation whatsoever with the New Normal proto-technocracy. Psychedelic, hallucinogenic, entheogenic, psychotomimetic, all have different shades of meaning, and perhaps these are all possibilities of the drug. Both God within, and induced psychosis.
But when different people experience the same thing independently of one another, that does complicate matters. It’s perfectly compatible with the theory that under psilocybin one is able to experience more of reality itself, through a wider window on the electromagnetic spectrum, and what happened was me — us — picking up forces or presences that are not normally perceptible. And then, of course, interpreting them through our cultural and psychological filters, but at the base of it a shared experience reflecting something in reality.
Later, something else occurred to me, a third, more dialectical possibility beyond the binary real-unreal antithesis. It was a concept I’d come across only glancingly, and it took me a while to remember the word: egregore. It comes from the Greek egrēgoros, ‘wakeful’, and is associated with angelic beings called Watchers in the Book of Enoch. In contemporary usage it has come to mean something closer to the theosophical concept of the tulpa — a thoughtform arising from a group of people, but then taking on, to whatever degree, an independent existence. An non-occult example of an egregore often given is that of a corporation. It’s worth thinking about, if only because it evades a simplistic distinction between real and unreal, objective and subjective. My scientific assumptions tend towards what used to be called plenism, belief in the existence of an all-pervasive medium from which phenomena, including matter, arise; the intelligent aether of the Stoics. In this paradigm, potentially, the paranormal becomes normal, and the supernatural natural. Less than 1% of the electro-magnetic spectrum is accessible to our senses, after all; the idea of spirituality as ‘higher physics’, then, is hard to resist. It’s simply a wider concept of what nature consists of and includes… the ontological iris dilating.
And it’s not trauma or disorientation I feel as a result of my experience, but a positive evolution, an emotional restructuring, liberating amid so much pain, premised on reaffirmation of the heart’s most ancient code.
Fear God, it says.