Some spiritual experiences are so far beyond normal reality that they can be seen as crazy by other people ~ or even worse, by the experiencer him/herself. What makes the difference is often whether the person can integrate the experience into their life and remain balanced, often a tricky proposition with mind-blowing, reality-changing experiences. Sometimes, though, there are even larger, long-range challenges. At age 24 I had such an experience, and only now, 40 years later, am I finally getting what I feel is a truly comprehensive understanding of it, in a way that’s producing some spectacular latter-day enlightenment. I’ve gone through lots of changes in between, including getting diagnosed as mentally ill.
The experience happened on LSD, but later recurred in other circumstances. This raises another contentious issue, of whether or not drug-induced spiritual experiences are “real” or “valid”. A conclusion that matches my own life experience was voiced by the spiritual teacher Gurdjieff, who said that certain substances used in the right way can give you a temporary advance glimpse of what’s possible to achieve permanently by long-term spiritual work without drugs. I also dealt with this theme in a fictional story titled The Metamorph; click on the link for a brief summary of it, highlighting the spiritual development aspect.
On my first acid trip I underwent an ecstatic experience of dissolving in white light and discovering the divine love and Oneness that underlies all creation, a classic opening of the heart chakra. The drug was specifically administered in a nurturing, guided situation. A few trips later I ascended to a headier and scarier peak. I found myself all alone and terrified in an infinite black void outside space and time, before the universe had even been created. I thought I must’ve been God, because I held life and death in my hands, literally. They were tangible archetypal objects: a bright spark that was the Star of Life, and a skull that was death itself. The skull morphed into a dagger, which I wanted to plunge into my heart to escape from the horror of being stuck in the void all alone forever. But I held back from doing that because I thought it would cause the total and final end of everything.
I was pretty crazy for a month or so after that trip to what I later named the ULTRASPHERE, regressing to pathological patterns from which I thought I had escaped on the first trip. But gradually I recovered with a little help from my friends, and in the next couple of years I made further progress: my personality and talents blossomed, I developed new skills and abilities, and I got into the very first all-the-way sexual relationship of my life. This proved to my own satisfaction that it was a genuine illumination and individuation, not just a nutty acid dream. Yet precisely because it was real, it became the source of a subtler madness.
The Ultra experience was further validated some fifteen years later when I was friends with some members of an esoteric magical order, who revealed that it’s the fruit of an initiation called Crossing the Abyss, and is associated with the third-highest sphere in the Qabbalistic Tree of Life. Ten years after that I wrote another story, this one specifically a fictional take-off on Ultra; it’s called The Wedding of Star and Shadow. The most poignant material to the subject at hand is right in the first chapter.
Finally there began a development where I recognized the value of humility, and began to have experiences of separation. That may sound strange, but it was just as intuitive and mystical as experiences of union and Oneness. When at last I belatedly grasped the reality of otherness, it was a joyful deliverance from my inner loneliness.
As you can see, the Ultra experience was a driving force in my life. I was on a quest to plumb the mystery to its depths, and to find a path from what I took to be the loneliness of God to the supreme beatific states that lie beyond, as described in so many spiritual sources and experiencer-accounts. Meanwhile, it was my ultimate point of reference and the core of my identity ~ no matter what kind of relations I had with however many people, deep inside I was always convinced that I was God, and that the outside world is an illusion ~ including the other people. Somewhere along the line I heard a sort of metaphysical joke which I adopted as my secret personal mantra: I am the only one who truly exists.
I feel that the whole journey clearly illustrates the hazards of “premature” enlightenments. If you can’t find the line between your ‘I’ and your Godself, your ego will expand to ungodly proportions. It’s also sometimes referred to as “confusion of spheres”. Surely we are all One in the highest, but here below our greatest treasure is our Twoness, our existence as separate beings who can live and love and learn together.