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it had for many of the guides I had met, the mystical experience Fritz had on psychedelics launched him on a decades-long spiritual quest that eventually “blew my linear, empirical mind,” opening him up to the possibility of past lives, telepathy, precognition, and “synchronicities” that defy our conceptions of space and time. He spent time on an ashram in India, where he witnessed specific scenes that had been prefigured in his psychedelic journeys. Once, making love to a woman in Germany (the two were practicing Tantrism), he and she shared an out-of-body experience that allowed them to observe themselves from the ceiling. “These medicines have shown me that something quote-unquote impossible exists. But I don’t think it’s magic or supernatural. It’s a technology of consciousness we don’t understand yet.”

Normally when people start talking about transpersonal dimensions of consciousness and “morphogenetic fields,” I have little (if any) patience, but there was something about Fritz that made such talk, if not persuasive, then at least . . . provocative. He managed to express the most far-fetched ideas in a disarmingly modest, even down-to-earth way. I had the impression he had no agenda beyond feeding his own curiosity, whether with psychedelics or books on paranormal phenomena. For some people, the privilege of having had a mystical experience tends to massively inflate the ego, convincing them they’ve been granted sole possession of a key to the universe. This is an excellent recipe for creating a guru. The certitude and condescension for mere mortals that usually come with that key can render these people insufferable. But that wasn’t Fritz. To the contrary. His otherworldly experiences had humbled him, opening him up to possibilities and mysteries without closing him to skepticism—or to the pleasures of everyday life on this earth. There was nothing ethereal about him. I surprised myself by liking Fritz as much as I did.

After five years spent living on a commune in Bavaria (“we were all trying to undo some of the damage done to the postwar generation”), in 1976 he met a woman from California while hiking in the Himalayas and followed her back to Santa Cruz. There he fell into the whole Northern California human potential scene, at various times running a meditation center for an Indian guru named Rajneesh and doing bodywork (including deep-tissue massage and Rolfing), Gestalt and Reichian therapy, and some landscaping to pay the bills. When in 1982, soon after his father’s death, he met Stan Grof at a breathwork course at Esalen, he felt he had at last found his rightful father. During the workshop, Fritz “had an experience as powerful as any psychedelic. Out of the blue, I experienced myself being born—my mother giving birth to me. While this was happening, I watched the goddess Shiva on a gigantic IMAX screen, creating worlds and destroying worlds. Everyone in the group wanted what I had!” He now added holotropic breathwork to his bodywork practice.

Eventually, Fritz did an intensive series of multiyear trainings with Grof in Northern California and British Columbia. At one of them, he met his future wife, a clinical psychologist. Grof was ostensibly teaching holotropic breathwork, the non-pharmacological modality he had developed after psychedelics were made illegal. But Fritz said that Grof also shared with this select group his deep knowledge about the practice of psychedelic therapy, discreetly passing on his methods to a new generation. Several people in the workshop, Fritz and his future wife among them, went on to become underground guides. She works with the women who find their way up the mountain, he with the men.

“You don’t make a lot of money,” Fritz told me. Indeed, he charged only nine hundred dollars for a three-day session, which included room and board. “It’s illegal and dangerous. You can have a person go psychotic. And you really don’t make a lot of money. But I’m a healer and these medicines work.” It was abundantly clear he had a calling and loved what he did—loved witnessing people undergo profound transformations before his eyes.

• • • FRITZ TOLD ME what to expect if I were to work with him. It would mean returning here for three days, sleeping in the eight-sided yurt, where we would also do “the work.” The first afternoon would be a warm-up or get-acquainted session, using either MDMA or breathwork. (I explained why in my case it would have to be breathwork.) This would give him a chance to observe how I handled an altered state of consciousness before sending me on an LSD journey the morning of the second day; it would also help him determine a suitable dose.

I asked him how he could be sure of the purity and quality of the medicines he uses, since they come from chemists working illicitly. Whenever he receives a new shipment, he explained, “I first test it for purity, and then I take a heroic dose to see how it feels before I give it to anyone.” Not exactly FDA approval, I thought to myself, but better than nothing.

Fritz doesn’t take any medicine himself while he’s working but often gets “a contact high” from his clients. During the session he takes notes, selects the music, and checks in every twenty minutes or so. “I’ll ask you not how you are but where you are.

“I’m here just for you, to hold the space, so you don’t have to worry about anything or anyone else. Not the wife, not the child. So you can really let go—and go.” This, I realized, was another reason I was eager to work with a guide. When Judith and I had our magic mushroom day the previous summer, the simmer of worry about her welfare kept intruding on my journey, forcing me to stay close to the surface. Much as I hated the psychobabble-y locution, I loved the idea of someone “holding space” for me.

“That night I’ll ask you to make some notes before you go to sleep. On your last morning, we’ll compare notes and try to integrate and make sense of your experience. Then I’ll cook you a big breakfast to get you ready to face the interstate!”

We scheduled a time for me to come back.

• • • THE FIRST THING I learned about myself that first afternoon, working with Fritz in the yurt, is that I am “easy to put under”—susceptible to trance, a mental space completely new to me and accessible by nothing more than a shift in the pattern of one’s breathing. It was the damnedest thing.

Fritz’s instructions were straightforward: Breathe deeply and rapidly while exhaling as strongly as you can. “At first it will feel unnatural and you’ll have to concentrate to maintain the rhythm, but after a few minutes your body will take over and do it automatically.” I stretched out on the mattress and donned a pair of eyeshades while he put on some music, something generically tribal and rhythmic, dominated by the pounding of a drum. He placed a plastic bucket at my side, explaining that occasionally people throw up.

It was hard work at first, to breathe in such an exaggerated and unnatural way, even with Fritz’s enthusiastic coaching, but then all at once my body took over, and I found that no thought was required to maintain the driving pace and rhythm. It was as if I had broken free from gravity and settled into an orbit: the big deep breaths just came, automatically. Now I felt an uncontrollable urge to move my legs and arms in sync with the pounding of the drums, which resonated in my rib cage like a powerful new heartbeat. I felt possessed, both my body and my mind. I can’t remember many thoughts except “Hey, this is working, whatever it is!”

I was flat on my back yet dancing wildly, my arms and legs moving with a will of their own. All control of my body I had surrendered to the music. It felt a little like speaking in tongues, or what I imagine that to be, with some external force taking over the mind and body for its own obscure purpose.

There wasn’t much visual imagery, just the naked sensation of exhilaration, until I began to picture myself on the back of a big black horse, galloping headlong down a path through a forest. I was perched up high on its shoulders, like a jockey, holding on tight as the beast scissored its great muscles forward and back with each long stride. As my rhythm synced with that of the horse, I could feel myself absorbing the animal’s power. It felt fantastic to so fully inhabit my body, as if for the first time. And yet because I am not a very confident rider (or dancer!), it also felt precarious, as if were I to miss a breath or beat I might tumble off.

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