The Acid Diaries: A Psychonaut’s Guide to the History and Use of LSD - by Christopher Gray

This dimension of magic, of the unknown, was precisely what had been missing from my life: and I didn't just mean the funny or pretty bits. Right from the first I appreciated the self-confrontation. What I had needed was to stretch the envelope.

I began to take a 100-microgram trip every second or, more frequently, every third weekend. To my surprise, the blindfold and earphones worked brilliantly. The blindfold allowed me to let go of the world and other people completely, while the music was like an Ariadne's thread I could follow through whatever happened. Should things threaten to become overwhelming, I just went back to concentrating on the music.

What a paradoxical space acid accessed! Hardly ever had I felt I was myself so intensely, yet at the same time I hadn't a clue who I was! Never had I imagined personality to be something so superficial, something you could peel off so easily, peel off without impeding the normal functioning of the mind . . . peel off, in fact, without even noticing it had gone!

As early as those first sessions, I noticed the way trips fall into two halves, the first half tending toward self-confrontation, while the second is more about integrating what you have experienced.

There was one last and, so far as I was concerned, essential part to the session. First thing the next morning I'd write up everything I could remember of the day before; I did this religiously in a fancy hardback notebook I'd bought.

Several entries in the trip journal complain that during the peak of a session I felt that everything was happening so fast I was missing much of it and that what I needed was a close friend who shared my enthusiasm and with whom I could have swapped sessions as a "sitter"--ideally, someone who could implement whatever agenda we had agreed upon (using a tape recorder, for instance) and generally keep the trip on track. This, I realized, was going to become even more important when it came to experimenting with higher doses.

Parallels between Zen and LSD were announced as though bullet-pointed:

  • same zeroing in on the present instant
  • same passion for beauty
  • same spiritual violence

I hadn't been the first person to discover the potency of photos on LSD; but my appreciation of Jacob's use of a tape recorder (obvious though it was in retrospect) somewhat mollified me.

Spiritually I was in denial . . . and had been for years. Scratch the surface and there was a sense of being little more than a zombie. My life was a blur. Briefly I would wake up, look around in momentary wonder, then without even noticing it, be back on autopilot again. Horribly, I appeared to wake up for only long enough to know I was asleep, and then I was asleep again. Yet, almost perversely, I refused to commit myself heart and soul to trying to do something about it.

I had exhausted the small stock of Renaissance music at the library (Josquin des Pres, then Lassus and Tallis, then Palestrina and compilation discs of lesser masters, finally doubling back to the roots in Dunstaple and Dufay). I wasn't far short of a lovesick teenager as I wandered through the night and rain, playing and replaying Lassus's Infelix Ego. With its dark ecstatic surges, surely the motet is one of the most haunting pieces of all Renaissance music . . .

For a moment I saw into the mind of God. Everything was equal--that was the secret. All creation was of a piece. Problems, and this was as clear as a bell, can never be solved, they can only be transcended. All you can do is step back into a larger and more inclusive frame; and in that bigger frame things are perfect just the way they are.

I appeared to have come down and be functioning quite normally again. Unbeknownst to me, a new phenomenon had appeared in my sessions: one referred to in the clinical literature as, ominously, "illusory sobering up." This is when, in the middle of a trip, you suddenly feel you have come right down, and the trip is now over. This, and the point needs stressing, is emphatically not the case.

How to convey the overwhelming conviction tripping conveys? It's not that you can't see consensual reality, it's that you are in the grip of something immeasurably more real . . .

In such stable absence of mental activity, any Tom, Dick, or Harry could see what the Buddha saw: that the one place, the only place, where there is no confusion or suffering is the immediate present moment. Perceived thus, every instant is potentially sacramental.

I had just been reading, for the first time ever, The Iliad, and been struck by the spiritual dimension that is tacit in all the great epics, the way aristocratic cultures since the dawn of time have been predicated on risking your life. Was the way of the warrior, however hideous the carnage, more authentic than the self-manipulation of the contemplative?

This, so far as I remember, was the first time I tried to think through the idea of developing a new approach to meditation, one working in tandem with psychedelics. Could acid be used to blast apart the almost solid masses of conditioning--while some more-sedate practice was used to digest what happened and familiarize oneself with its implications?

In such a perfect world I finally felt free to die. Why, or so it was impressed upon me that evening, we hang on to life so desperately is because we are enjoying it so little; but once we are living life to the full, then the meaning of death changes entirely. Somehow it becomes the consummation of life.

I had always imagined that compassion was a "virtue" that rare individuals managed to cultivate: this no longer seemed to be the case. Compassion appeared much more of a reflex instinct, one almost automatically associated with ego loss. Poor people, I murmured to myself as I wandered through the drunken evening. Poor, poor people!

If music had played the role of spiritual compass, then the trip journals had provided an equally vital space in which the sessions could be logged, their details recorded, and the process of working-through initiated. Here we are face to face with perhaps the single most important factor setting psychedelics apart from any previous spiritual path. Traditionally, spiritual breakthrough would have been preceded by years of devotion and steady practice. It would have been rooted, contextualized, in daily life from the first, whereas with psychedelics everything works the other way around. First there's the breakthrough, then the devotion and the practice. I guess that's the only way it can happen in a society of such doctrinaire materialism--but it puts unprecedented emphasis on keeping memory of the breakthrough alive and working through its implications.