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Azarius
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Lost in the Backyard

One sunny August day, after a weird two day trip to Kellis Island, I found myself in a gray mood.



One sunny August day, after a weird two day trip to Kellis Island, I found myself in a gray mood. Paying no heed to the literature I spent weeks on reading, paying no attention to anybody's warnings I decided to partake of the magic mushrooms. The little baggie of goodies was quickly extracted from the bottom hand drawer, and carefully unwrapped. This was a very exciting event! Never had anything like this before.

After unwrapping, half of the bag or an eighth ounce of the magical droogies was ocnsumed and I prepared for fantastic laser works, oblivious as to what was in store for me. After getting comfortable in bed I put WRUW 91.1 FM on the stereo and impatiently awaited for the mysterious lift off. Incidentally, the radio station played songs from Terrence McKenna's "AlienDreamtime" album; an interesting coincidence since Terrence McKenna is the guy who makes a living as a writer, musician, and ethnobotanist from interpreting the meaning of his hallucinations with these same mushrooms that were in my stomach that very moment.

About an hour of restlessness passed and I got really upset. Nothing was happening and it was evident that the guys who sold this stuff ripped me off. I wasted a crispy fifty dollar bill for nothing! Only later did I realized that I should've been more careful about making such a blatant accusation. Believing that all of this was one big hoax, I took out my trusty bowl, packed it with leaves of the cannabis sativa plant and smoked it in the back porch of our South Euclid house, two in the morning, very disappointed.

What followed was a chain of events can hardly be explained in words. I stood up from the porch feeling very giddy, swooned a little and gazed at the world with eyes of wonder. The grass turned into soft carpet, the crickets all around teamed up and created an intricate webwork of sound with their crickety-chatter. Each one acted in unison with the next, creating the most beautiful atmospheric sound imaginable. The world assumed a weird bluishness and I felt surrounded by cosmic harmony.

While contemplating on the beauty of this magic-land, I didn't notice how my ego quietly slipped away leaving me stripped naked; he drowned in the noise that emanated from the wilderness and I didn't even notice how he stepped out. Because there was no ego, no impediment so to speak, I could interpret my reality in a different light. Back there in our backyard, life was speaking and I could understand it. There was no dualism or separateness anymore and it felt liberating. A tiny mosquito landed on my arm, refueled, flew off. There was the sense that everything in the world exists now: this very moment and that this moment is infinite. In other words, there was no longer the concept of time. For the first time I knew eternity. All too quickly I comprehended why Aztec Indians, before the Spanish arrived, called this mushroom teonanacatl, flesh of the gods. I ate god's flesh, I partook in a very ancient ceremony.

There was complete harmony as I gazed in wonder; all this was so familiar yet alien enough that I forgot which house was my house, and which way was up and which down?

Where did our backyard stop and the neighbors' begin? These practical concerns began confusing my fragile eggshell mind. This is when what was so beautiful an eternity ago turned into ugliness the kind of ugliness that Kafka expresses in his works. I stood there in the middle of our backyard barefoot, completely lost in time and space, mosquitoes biting my body, a strange noise ringing in my ears, heart pumping, head spinning, mind running wild. Ridiculously the entire purpose of life reduced to finding my way back home so I could take control of the situation. My thoughts took on the same shape as Gregor's when he awoke in his bed, transformed into a bug. Like me, Gregor focused his entire attention span on very specific details of how to get on the train and return to ordinary business, completely blacking out the fact that he forever would not be able to do any of that. In the back of his mind however, I think he realized the weight of the situation, but was too afraid to admit it to himself.

An outsider might misunderstand Gregor's behavior (as well as mine), expecting him to react wildly to his transformation from a human being into a bug instead of thinking about such trivialities as catching the eight o'clock train or worrying about his superiors. But Gregor knew very well what had happened to him. When he went insane, believing he turned into a bug, he realized the full horror of his condition. By focusing on narrow concerns he desperately tried to return to the familiar routines of life, but that didn't help. Can you imagine what miserable helplessness came over him when he fell to the floor with a loud thump and fully realized that this was no dream, that he was a bug and not a human anymore? Moreover he must have been confused by the fact that he still thought like a human being and had the same urges. How weird to be a bug and still have human traits. How devastating!

At any rate, I barely found my way back home, squeezed my body through the doorway. Before crawling into my room I spotted Elina's self-portrait on the wall. It was a painting I stole from art class during my last year in high school. It always seemed to me that she deliberately exaggerated her features to make them look sharper. She was always so far ahead and I always tried to catch up but it never really worked. Again, a sense of desperation at being enslaved by my body and family, a scapegoat who was always blamed for everything that went wrong filled my body and was augmented a thousandfold by the inebriation.

Finally I reached my room, closed the door and drank some water which was prepared beforehand. That helped slightly. I couldn't get over the scare that came over me when I got lost in the backyard. The fear of losing my self somewhere deep in the jungle of consciousness was the predominating factor which kept me paranoid throughout the night.

Thus, completely out of my mind, I lay for many an hour in a psychotic spell. Thoughts in time and out of season flowed in and out of consciousness. Vivid fragments of the past flooded into awareness. When I recalled recent dreams, they had a very real quality to them, their meaning was closely linked with events in waking consciousness. At this point I couldn't distinguish dreams from non-dreams any more. As Syd Barret (another lost soul) sings in "Jugband Blues":

...And what exactly is a dream?
And what exactly is a joke?

Visions that belonged to other times and unearthly places overwhelmed my mind. Where did all of this information come from? I simply couldn't understand. It was the most remarkable thing that my mind had the capacity to store every event that ever happened in the past. I previously had the notion that if I couldn't recall a past experience that it was gone for good. I read that people who have near death experiences can also relive their past. I guess what I was going through could be considered a near death experience because I was going through the same experience. For example, I could concentrate on the deepest childhood memories and they would be revealed with complete vividness like in dreams.

Then I noticed the crickets again (all the windows in my room were wide open) and a very loud and deep sound began emanating from all directions. At best I can compare it to the 'umm' sound that Buddhist monks make to aid their meditation. The only difference was that the frequency of this sound was lower and that gave it such quality that no human throat can produce. All of my attention turned to this sound. Again lost myself like in the backyard. The sound was bringing me closer and closer to the source and if only I would let go something radical would happen. I couldn't tell what would happen, but I would probably snap or jump out or leave this world, I don't know... It felt like I was standing on the threshold. I was ready to leap out into the source, but certain earthly ties held me put. It wasn't fear of death because at that point I knew that there was no death. More than ever, I didn't want to leave the people close to me in complete disarray. I knew that they depended on me, there are certain bonds that we have which my leaving would break. I saw that it was important to retell all of my experiences to them some sunny day. To leave them would be to relinquish all responsibility. Again, a parallel with the way Kafka thought about suicide. There is something that goes on in the Jewish family that makes you think this way.

The source which my mind contemplated on was perhaps the essence of all existence, and me contemplating on it implied attaining a sort of enlightenment if you will. The source was alpha and omega, the beginning and end. It radiated light brighter than the sun yet my eyes were closed shut. I couldn't pinpoint to the place where the source was located since it is everpresent. It was so near yet so far away that you laugh and wonder how you could've missed it all this time. It makes complete sense, all the loose ends are tied to it; it is complete and perfect, it has no boundaries, it is all encompassing and infinite. It is Dao and God and Brahman and the Universe and a thousand other names. You know it intimately, you sprang from it and it is you. It existed before your mother and father and before their parents, and long before theirs. You are its manifestation. In other words, there is no you vs. source separation.

The light emanating from the source was different from other light I've seen in that I could see its radiance without the help of my two eyes. I guess I was using my third eye or something of that sort. In literature and in different cultures there are many references to this third eye, which is believed to reside in the center of the forehead above and between the eyes. Perhaps that's where it resides but I personally believe that this eye is disembodied, meaning you can't point to it and say "It's right here." The whole concept of a third eye is a metaphor created by our friends ancestors to make sense of the visions incuring from it.

This eye sees not substance but that which resides beyond substantial reality. You see, all of our senses can only perceive the material reality. For example, the eye sees light and converts it to patterns decipherable by the brain. The ear hears sounds that are impressed on the meddle and later transferred to the brain to be processed. The same mechanism holds true for the sense of touch, smell, and taste. Generally, there is a stimulus or a signal that is perceived by one of the senses and later transmitted to the brain.

But the third eye receives no physical stimulus, the signals it perceives can't be talked about in corporeal terms, so there is plenty of room for criticism. It's very easy to dismiss all of it as a visual or auditory hallucination. But if you chose to brush it off as a mere hallucination then the burden falls on you to explain exactly what caused the hallucination. Was it some chemical process in the brain which the sciences can't explain just yet? You see, paying all due respects to modern science, a person that is inebriated, be he a scientist or an artist, will have the most difficult time attributing the experience to a mere hallucination for a very simple reason that this hallucination, as far as the observer is concerned, is completely real. The observer is absorbed in the experience, his objectivity impaired (often times permanently).

The psychedelia that passed through my body like some mad circus left me both elated and horrified; elated from having attained the ultimate reality, horrified at the knowledge that there was apparently no way out of it. I felt like I was permanently deranged. This was my complete metamorphosis. Never again would I be the same Mike. When the madness persisted for more than an hour (objectively speaking), I realized just how real all of it was. It was not a nightmare from which you could wake up, flat solid ground under your feet and forget it by blocking it out. Perturbing thoughts gnawed at my flesh: the morning would come my parents would get suspicious and at first gently knock on the door asking me if something was wrong, if I was maybe ill. I would no longer be able to communicate with them, being in another dimension. I would not speak like a human being, but like an animal even though I would still remain the same person prior to the metamorphosis. I'd be different on the surface only, not on the inside. But I would not let that be! They would not see me like this! Desperate to hold on to the familiar reality, I struggled with the inebriation until six in the morning. I felt rather than saw that morning come, and with dawn came a sense of rebirth. Sitting on my bed wide awake, I was reborn: a star child, like the one in 2001: Space Odyssey residing in an 18 year old body.

The aliens showed me a glimpse of the other side, the magic mushrooms acted as a stargate. What was the purpose of life? There was no purpose but to live. Who holds the answers? There is no one correct answer. The Jews say the Torah contains all the truth, the Muslims say it's the Koran. For the Christians the Bible is the word of God, for the Chinese in general, it's the writings of Confucious. Philosophers see the consistent logical intellectualization as the key to unlock epistemology. In India and parts of China, with Zen Buddhism and Daoism, there is a great deal of looking inward and attaining inner peace through deep meditation, yoga, fasting, sensory deprivation, and other natural means.

For shamans all over the world and Indians in the Americas as well as myself it's these magic mushrooms and all kinds of strange brews that bring one face to face with the great spirit. It really doesn't matter which method is employed. What is important to understand is that you have to do something to attain this knowledge. The mountain will not come to Muhammad. Muhammad must come to the mountain.

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Azarius
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