A Religious Trip

from: "LSD - My Problem Child." by Albert Hofmann

The following notes kept by a twenty-five-year-old advertising agent are contained in The LSD Story by John Cashman (Fawcett Publications, Greenwich, Conn., 1966). The progression that is described - from terrifying visions to extreme euphoria, a kind of death-rebirth cycle - is characteristic of many LSD experiments.

"A Joyous Song of Being"

My first experience with LSD came at the home of a close friend who served as my guide. The surroundings were comfortably familiar and relaxing. I took two ampuls (200 micrograms) of LSD mixed in half a glass of distilled water. The experience lasted for close to eleven hours, from 8 o'clock on a Saturday evening until very nearly 7 o'clock the next morning. I have no firm point of comparison, but I am positive that no saint ever saw more glorious or joyously beautiful visions or experienced a more blissful state of transcendence. My powers to convey the miracles are shabby and far too inadequate to the task at hand. A sketch, and an artless one at that, must suffice where only the hand of a great master working from a complete palette could do justice to the subject. I must apologize for my own limitations in this feeble attempt to reduce the most remarkable experience of my life to mere words. My superior smile at the fumbling, halting attempts of others in their attempts to explain the heavenly visions to me has been transformed into a knowing smile of a conspirator - the common experience requires no words.

My first thought after drinking the LSD was that it was having absolutely no effect. They had told me thirty minutes would produce the first sensation, a tingling of the skin. There was no tingling. I commented on this and was told to relax and wait. For the lack of anything else to do I stared at the dial light of the table radio, nodding my head to a jazz piece I did not recognize. I think it was several minutes before I realized that the light was changing color kaleidoscopically with the different pitch of the musical sounds, bright reds and yellows in the high register, deep purple in the low. I laughed. I had no idea when it had started. I simply knew it had. I closed my eyes, but the colored notes were still there. I was overcome by the remarkable brilliance of the colors. I tried to talk, to explain what I was seeing, the vibrant and luminous colors. Somehow it didn't seem important. With my eyes open, the radiant colors flooded the room, folding over on top of one another in rhythm with the music. Suddenly I was aware that the colors were the music. The discovery did not seem startling. Values, so cherished and guarded, were becoming unimportant. I wanted to talk about the colored music, but I couldn't. I was reduced to uttering one-syllable words while polysyllabic impressions tumbled through my mind with the speed of light.

The dimensions of the room were changing, now sliding into a fluttering diamond shape, then straining into an oval shape as if someone were pumping air into the room, expanding it to the bursting point. I was having trouble focusing on objects. They would melt into fuzzy masses of nothing or sail off into space, self-propelled, slow-motion trips that were of acute interest to me. I tried to check the time on my watch, but I was unable to focus on the hands. I thought of asking for the time, but the thought passed. I was too busy seeing and listening. The sounds were exhilarating, the sights remarkable. I was completely entranced. I have no idea how long this lasted. I do know the egg came next.

The egg, large, pulsating, and a luminous green, was there before I actually saw it. I sensed it was there. It hung suspended about halfway between where I sat and the far wall. I was intrigued by the beauty of the egg. At the same time I was afraid it would drop to the floor and break. I didn't want the egg to break. It seemed most important that the egg should not break. But even as I thought of this, the egg slowly dissolved and revealed a great multihued flower that was like no flower I have ever seen. Its incredibly exquisite petals opened on the room, spraying indescribable colors in every direction. I felt the colors and heard them as they played across my body, cool and warm, reedlike and tinkling.

The first tinge of apprehension came later when I saw the centre of the flower slowly eating away at the petals, a black, shiny that appeared to be formed by the backs of a thousand ants. It ate away the petals at an agonizingly slow pace. I wanted to scream for it to stop or to hurry up. I was pained by the gradual disappearance of the beautiful petals as if being swallowed by an insidious disease. Then in a flash of insight I realized to my horror that the black thing was actually devouring me. I was the flower and this foreign, creeping thing was eating me!

I shouted or screamed, I really don't remember. I was too full of fear and loathing. I heard my guide say: "Easy now. Just go with it. Don't fight it. Go with it." I tried, but the hideous blackness caused such repulsion that I screamed: "I can't! For God's sake help me! Help me!" The voice was soothing, reassuring: "Let it come. Everything is all right. Don't worry. Go with it. Don't fight."

I felt myself dissolving into the terrifying apparition, my body melting in waves into the core of blackness, my mind stripped of ego and life and, yes even death. In one great crystal instant I realized that I was immortal. I asked the question: "Am I dead?" But the question had no meaning. Meaning was meaningless. Suddenly there was white light and the shimmering beauty of unity. There was light everywhere, white light with a clarity beyond description. I was dead and I was born and the exultation was pure and holy. My lungs were bursting with the joyful song of being. There was unity and life and the exquisite love that filled my being was unbounded. My awareness was acute and complete. I saw God and the devil and all the saints and I knew the truth. I felt myself flowing into the cosmos, levitated beyond all restraint, liberated to swim in the blissful radiance of the heavenly visions.

I wanted to shout and sing of miraculous new life and sense and form, of the joyous beauty and the whole mad ecstasy of loveliness. I knew and understood all there is to know and understand. I was immortal, wise beyond wisdom, and capable of love, of all loves. Every atom of my body and soul had seen and felt God. The world was warmth and goodness. There was no time, no place, no me. There was only cosmic harmony. It was all there in the white light. With every fibre of my being I knew it was so.

I embraced the enlightenment with complete abandonment. As the experience receded I longed to hold onto it and tenaciously fought against the encroachment of the realities of time and place. For me, the realities of our limited existence were no longer valid. I had seen the ultimate realities and there would be no others. As I was slowly transported back to the tyranny of clocks and schedules and petty hatreds, I tried to talk of my trip, my enlightenment, the horrors, the beauty, all of it. I must have been babbling like an idiot. My thoughts swirled at a fantastic rate, but the words couldn't keep pace. My guide smiled and told me he understood.

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