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Author the Illusion of Self
The following report is an account of my fifth psychedelic mushroom experience.
Every time I prepare myself to take mushrooms, I feel that I know what to expect. And without fail, every time I come down from a trip, all I can think is: “Wait, so that’s what mushrooms do?” This trip was my highest dose to date, and the events and realizations that occurred within the trip left me speechless and grasping for answers.
I was tripping in my friend’s house with three other people, all experienced with psychedelic drugs. It was decided that we would all take ¾ of one eighth of mushrooms, which appeared to be Cubensis. At , we ate the mushrooms with nothing but cups of water to help wash down the woody, splintering pulp.
J and W both went into another room to play the guitar, while me and D stayed back and started rolling a blunt before we reached a point where would be physically incapable of doing so. It had only been about twenty minutes before D and I began feeling the familiar tell-tale signs of a full-on psychedelic assault. We’ve tripped together before, and we’re always the first to feel it. The entire body grows suddenly weak, and our hands become clammy and hot. Something is different.
Another 20 minutes and the trip had arrived. We started off the trip listening to some music in D’s room. I was experiencing one of the strongest body highs I’ve ever had, and my body was shuddering uncontrollably. I wasn’t cold, but my legs and hands could not stop shaking. Once the tremors subsided, I was no longer sober in any sense of the word. I felt peaceful and tranquil, very anxious about what the rest of the night had in store. When I moved, the air became dense and palpable. It transformed from a light, movable gas into a kind of invisible sludge that my arms struggled to wade through. The thought occurred to me that I might be able to shape the sludge to my liking, and sure enough, I scooped together two handfuls of air and merged them into a ball which I held in front of me. D saw what I was doing and became intrigued. He too started to mold the air into balls, which we began casually tossing back and forth to each other with caution and wonder. The beginning stages of the trip were filled with these types of fun activities, and we were happy and cheerful. It wasn’t long before we decided to migrate to another room and try some new things.
When I entered A’s room, the reality of a mushroom trip hit
me: Just because it starts off fun and easy, does not mean it will stay that
way. I immediately felt different and extremely uncomfortable. This sudden
shift in my emotional state startled me and I silently prayed I wouldn’t psyche
myself out into a bad trip. Pushing these thoughts aside, I sat down on A’s bed
as he put in The Talking Heads live concert
While I lay on the bed, I became acutely aware of the high volume of thoughts that were entering my mind. My natural filters had been disabled and thoughts from my unconscious spilled into the realm of my conscious acknowledgement. I began thinking about my external reality, my surroundings, and my place on the planet earth. I thought about the government of my country and its relations to other governments. While I was on this subject, I realized that I had no idea about the true nature of any of these terms. When I thought about a “government”, what did that mean? To me, it was just a simplified definition that had been delivered to me in an academic environment. I started to think about other things that I’ve never centrally apprehended, but instead understood only in terms of simplified definition. To my surprise, this constituted basically everything that did not affect me on a day-to-day basis. I realized that my reality was very fragile. My understanding of the world was based on my understanding of a complex web of interlocking oversimplified definitions. Then, in a moment of clarity, I saw myself in the center of the web, and everything that was not part of the self, as completely separate. My rationale was, that because I could not experience every single aspect of the universe, I had to rely heavily on definitions to clarify meaning for me. However, these definitions were created by people other than myself, and subsequently taught to me. I had no way of verifying their validity. I believed that I would never be able to centrally comprehend anything except for myself, something which I was directly involved in developing. The moment of clarity lingered. I had had similar moments during other mushroom trips. My vision grows brighter and my mind becomes so blank that it is frightening. I saw myself as the only thing that really existed, and everything that was not Me, as an illusion that was constructed by the system of definitions I had come to accept as reality.
After awhile, we left A’s room and went upstairs to play video games. My trip became a lot more fun and a lot less intense because I was occupied by something other than my thoughts. We “played” Smash Brothers, although I was basically pressing buttons and contemplating how such simple actions were transformed into such complex animations on the screen. This part of the trip was relatively uneventful, because, like I said, I was in an external frame of mind and not conversing with myself. I now know that silence and thinking are for me, parts of the trip where the frightening reality of my world becomes apparent and too much for me too handle.
(Un)fortuantely, we went back to D’s room right around the time we were peaking, and I realized that I was wrong, and that mushrooms didn’t care if I was keeping myself busy or not. They were prepared to reveal deeper truths to me and didn’t give two fucks about my intentions.
Earlier in the night, my external reality had become subject to the purifying flame of psilocybin. The entire external world as I knew it became simplified, packaged, reduced to a single unit, and then been discarded in a matter of moments. All that was left was the self. And now, the mushrooms began to show me that the self wasn’t as stable as I believed it to be.
And so the destruction of the illusion of identity began. One of the first things I realized is that some day I would die. I’ve obviously known this all of my life, but now I was realizing the absolute and final nature of this truth. I was a biological organism, I knew that, and I was going to die. The thought was charged with some divine influence, because it scared the ever living shit out of me. This was a logical starting point for the complete elimination of my ego as I knew it.
Then I made a succession of sudden realizations about how the self is constructed. I saw myself, and the people around me, as nothing more than a conglomeration of ideologies and principles that had been gathered together and pieced into a whole since infancy. Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, more and more substance is picked up as a human develops. The substance sticks and becomes the foundation for new values and ideas that constitute new layers of the self. People are only individuals in the sense that there is a potentially unlimited combination of different principles and ideologies one can choose from to form themselves. I began to see the building blocks of the self as specific, concrete ideas. Then I grasped interchangeability of these units. For myself, one of the beliefs I assimilated during my developmental process was that murder is wrong. I saw this principle as a unit, let’s call it the Murder Morality unit. Then I saw the polar opposite of the value I possessed in this category, which is the belief that murder is not wrong. This is a unit that may be possessed by a serial killer, or a member of an ancient society that had not instilled this unit in its subjects. Once I made this realization, I understood that it was possible for human beings to pick and choose which units they would like to be comprised of. The problem was that most people did not understand that the construction of self could be a conscious process. For a majority of people, it is unconscious. This is due to the fact that the core of the being, the most basic element of self - that which causes a human to choose arbitrarily between the units that construct it, craves stability. It wants to be whole and complete. And so during development, it does not wait for all of the potential possibilities to be presented to it. It accepts the first one it comes across, so that it can continue building new layers on top of it.
And so there I sat. I was no longer a person, instead, a soul covered in snow. I had been rolling down a hill of ideology since I was born, picking up new principles to constitute my individual self. And due to the laws of physics, I had not followed the same path as any other person, just as no two snowballs will roll down a hill in an identical manner. The mushrooms had slowed the descent of my development down to a speed where I could consciously acknowledge the process that was ongoing. I felt suddenly empowered. There was a steering wheel in my snowball now, and I could become whatever I want to be, as long as I chose to be it.
This section of the trip may seem fun to readers, but at the time, it was painfully intense and almost unbearable. Being stripped down so quickly, after being held together by an illusion for 20 years was the single most psychologically painful experience I’ve undergone.
For the rest of my trip, a very strange occurrence was obviously apparent. Normally, when I talk to myself, the conversation takes place in my head. If I try to consciously become aware of the physical location, I can say that it has always taken place right behind my eyes, inside of my skull. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden my internal voice was projected outwards. It existed outside of me and talked to me like it was a separate person, a disconnected identity. This wasn’t that startling for me, and for some reason seemed to make sense at the time. It also made things easier to grasp and understand as I realized them.
Now I was reborn, and ready to move on to the next section
of my trip. A quote from the Psychedelic Information Theory summarizes the
“The reality is that we are not purely individuals, we are encoded protein structures that begin growing when seed fertilizes egg, and everything else we invent about ourselves is more or less an illusion formed by perception, language, and memory: the illusion of self, the illusion of identity, the illusion of ego. Shattering these illusions is the first step in path towards the psychedelic epiphany.”
After the illusion of my identity was destroyed and rebuilt in a more accurate fashion, I began to contemplate time. This has been another area that has been deeply influenced by my participation in an academic environment. Throughout my lifetime, my schools and classes have instilled a very specific way of viewing time. That is, I see time in concrete blocks. 42 minute blocks throughout high school, hour or hour and a half blocks in college. Half hours, hours, minutes, seconds, time has been constantly compartmentalized throughout my life. Now, as I sat in the midst of my trip, this view of time seemed absurd and meaningless. The meaning of every single possible time combination only exists because of every combination it is currently not. For example, let’s say it is . What does this mean at a base level? In a largely unconscious process, humans assign meaning to arbitrary numbers. means it’s not . If it were , it would be closer to than it would be to . If it’s , it means that it will soon be . Once I realized how truly arbitrary the meaning that assigned to different times was, I had another moment of clarity. The past, present, and future fused together and formed The Now. Since time doesn’t really exist, it is only a human construct, the only thing that can possibly matter is this exact instant: right now. Once I understood this, I thought about how absurd most humans act. Rushing from place to place to be on time. Constantly worrying about the time and discussing it. All the while it doesn’t even exist.
Once I become aware of The Now, I completely forgot what it was like to be sober. For the life of me, I could not recall the feeling. Everything seemed so intense and real during each second that I figured that it was reality and I was never going back.
Eventually, we went outside for a cigarette. I had barely noticed it, but my trip was gradually subsiding. I was a lot closer to baseline and was finally able to engage in conversation with my friends. During the peak I had remained absolutely silent except for some “wows”, “oh my gods”, and “im tripping fucking balls’s”. I was so grateful to be returning to a state of sobriety so that I could swallow all of the epiphanies that had just bombarded me.
I felt like I could do anything I wanted to in the world. I felt more empowered and euphoric than I’ve ever felt in my life. I was so happy; I just wanted to go around telling everybody how important they were and how much I loved them. A lot of this had to do with the fact that I was so grateful to have emerged from such a profound experience in one piece. More of it had to do with the fact that armed with the knowledge that I could author my entire life by picking and choosing what I wanted to believe, I was more powerful than I’ve ever been.
Within a half hour of this I was completely done tripping. However, I could not stand the fact that a reality I had constructed for 20 years could be destroyed and rebuilt in four hours. The absolute intensity, and I mean intensity in every aspect of the word, of that truth was mind-blowing to me. It was me extremely uncomfortable for me to accept that it could even happen. When I went home, absolute silence was PAINFUL. I did not want to be alone with my thoughts any more, and I did not want to know the things I now knew. I wanted to go back to my former reality and was absolutely scared shitless of the fact that I might have had an epiphany that would stay with me forever, constantly undermining the reality I had to be a part of.
Over the next few days, I struggled with living in a world that I knew to be completely made up of illusions. However, over time, the meaning and intensity of the trip in my memory began to fade, much like a dream does. I could not recall the events or my epiphanies with the degree of clarity I could hours prior. However, the basic tenets remained. I am the master of my destiny and the author of the illusion. I have returned to my surface reality and can now live peacefully alongside these realizations. They are empowering and helpful. I do not worry about 99% of the things I worried about prior to my trip. I know that the negative meaning that comes from each one is merely an arbitrary lie I have told to myself and believed. And so I cast the pernicious elements away and harbor all of the constructive ones. I’m in the process of refining myself more along the standards that I truly want, and it’s easier than ever.
Mushrooms truly are one of the most important chemical tools this world has to offer. I believe everyone should be exposed to the harsh reality that they have been passive in their self-construction to date, but with some effort, they can grab the reigns of their life and take control.