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دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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I asked her the question that gnawed at me whenever someone recounted such a mystical experience: “How can you be sure this was a genuine spiritual event and not just a drug experience?”

“It’s an irrelevant question,” she replied coolly. “This was something being revealed to me.”

There it was: the noetic sense William James had described as a mark of the mystical experience. I envied Olivia’s certainty. Which I suppose is the reason I decided I would smoke the toad.

• • • THE NIGHT BEFORE my date with Rocío was, predictably, sleepless. Yes, I’d come through these first two trips intact, grateful, even, for having gone on them, and had come away with the idea I was stronger, physically and mentally, than I had previously thought. But now all the old fears rushed back, assailing me through the long fitful night. Everest! Could my heart take the intensity of those first harrowing moments of ascent? What were the chances I’d go mad? Slim, perhaps, but surely not zero. So was this an absolutely insane thing to do? On the plus side, I figured, whatever happened, it would all be over in half an hour. On the negative side, everything might be over in half an hour.

As the sun came up, I decided I would decide when I got there. Rocío, whom I’d made aware of my trepidations, had offered to let me watch her work with someone else before it was my turn. This proved reassuring, as she knew it would. The guy before me, a supremely low-affect college student who had done the toad once before, took a puff from Rocío’s pipe, lay back on a mattress, and embarked on what appeared to be a placid thirty-minute nap, during which he exhibited no signs of distress, let alone existential terror. After it was over, he seemed perfectly fine. A great deal had gone on in his mind, he indicated, but from the looks of it, his body had scarcely been perturbed. Okay then. Death or madness seemed much less likely. I could do this.

After positioning me on the mattress just so, Rocío had me sit up while she loaded a premeasured capsule of the crystals into a glass vial that she then screwed onto the barrel of the pipe. She asked me to give thanks to the toad and think about my intention. (Something fairly generic about learning whatever the toad had to teach me.) Rocío lit a butane flame underneath the vial and instructed me to draw on the pipe in short sips of air as the white smoke swirled and then filled the glass. “Then one big final draw that I want you to hold as long as you can.”

I have no memory of ever having exhaled, or of being lowered onto the mattress and covered with a blanket. All at once I felt a tremendous rush of energy fill my head accompanied by a punishing roar. I managed, barely, to squeeze out the words I had prepared, “trust” and “surrender.” These words became my mantra, but they seemed utterly pathetic, wishful scraps of paper in the face of this category 5 mental storm. Terror seized me—and then, like one of those flimsy wooden houses erected on Bikini Atoll to be blown up in the nuclear tests, “I” was no more, blasted to a confetti cloud by an explosive force I could no longer locate in my head, because it had exploded that too, expanding to become all that there was. Whatever this was, it was not a hallucination. A hallucination implies a reality and a point of reference and an entity to have it. None of those things remained.

Unfortunately, the terror didn’t disappear with the extinction of my “I.” Whatever allowed me to register this experience, the post-egoic awareness I’d first experienced on mushrooms, was now consumed in the flames of terror too. In fact every touchstone that tells us “I exist” was annihilated, and yet I remained conscious. “Is this what death feels like? Could this be it?” That was the thought, though there was no longer a thinker to have it.

Here words fail. In truth, there were no flames, no blast, no thermonuclear storm; I’m grasping at metaphor in the hope of forming some stable and shareable concept of what was unfolding in my mind. In the event, there was no coherent thought, just pure and terrible sensation. Only afterward did I wonder if this was what the mystics call the mysterium tremendum—the blinding unendurable mystery (whether of God or some other Ultimate or Absolute) before which humans tremble in awe. Huxley described it as the fear “of being overwhelmed, of disintegrating under a pressure of reality greater than a mind, accustomed to living most of the time in a cosy world of symbols, could possibly bear.”

Oh, to be back in the cozy world of symbols!

After the fact I kept returning to one of two metaphors, and while they inevitably deform the experience,* as any words or metaphors or symbols must, they at least allow me to grasp hold of a shadow of it and, perhaps, share it. The first is the image of being on the outside of a rocket after launch. I’m holding on with both hands, legs clenched around it, while the rapidly mounting g-forces clutch at my flesh, pulling my face down into a taut grimace, as the great cylinder rises through successive layers of clouds, exponentially gaining speed and altitude, the fuselage shuddering on the brink of self-destruction as it strains to break free from Earth’s grip, while the friction it generates as it crashes through the thinning air issues in a deafening roar.

It was a little like that.

The other metaphor was the big bang, but the big bang run in reverse, from our familiar world all the way back to a point before there was anything, no time or space or matter, only the pure unbounded energy that was all there was then, before an imperfection, a ripple in its waveform, caused the universe of energy to fall into time, space, and matter. Rushing backward through fourteen billion years, I watched the dimensions of reality collapse one by one until there was nothing left, not even being. Only the all-consuming roar.

It was just horrible.

And then suddenly the devolution of everything into the nothingness of pure force reverses course. One by one, the elements of our universe begin to reconstitute themselves: the dimensions of time and space returned first, blessing my still-scattered confetti brain with the cozy coordinates of place; this is somewhere! And then I slipped back into my familiar “I” like an old pair of slippers and soon after felt something I recognized as my body begin to reassemble. The film of reality was now running in reverse, as if all the leaves that the thermonuclear blast had blown off the great tree of being and scattered to the four winds were suddenly to find their way back, fly up into the welcoming limbs of reality, and reattach. The order of things was being restored, me notably included. I was alive!

The descent and reentry into familiar reality was swifter than I expected. Having undergone the shuddering agony of launch, I had expected to be deposited, weightless, into orbit—my installation in the firmament as a blissed-out star! Alas. Like those first Mercury astronauts, my flight remained suborbital, describing an arc that only kissed the serenity of infinite space before falling back down to Earth.

And yet as I felt myself reconstitute as a self and then a body, something for which I now sought confirmation by running my hands along my legs and squirming beneath the blanket, I felt ecstatic—as happy as I can remember ever feeling. But this ecstasy was not sui generis, not exactly. It was more like the equal and opposite reaction to the terror I had just endured, less of a divine gift than the surge of pleasure that comes from the cessation of unendurable pain. But a sense of relief so vast and deep as to be cosmic.

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