Last year I wrote a post about my experience when I imbibed a cannabis-based concoction at a friend’s house, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/my-cannabis-experience.html. Recently I visited the same friend and did it again. This time the atmosphere of her home was very different; there were more people around and a house party of about a dozen individuals, including me and Ustane, was underway. My friend, whom I'll call “Jane”, handed me the pipe and I pulled on it like before, trying to hold the fumes in for as long as possible and suppressing the urge to cough and splutter. “You might find that the experience won’t be as intense as before”, Jane told me. “It’s never as strong as the first time you take it.” But it was. The feeling I got was actually far more intense than the first time I tried it, and it was very different; and at times it was deeply unpleasant.
Like before, the effect took a number of minutes to build. To begin with it was the same as the first time. I found myself grinning irrepressibly and I began giggling at the slightest thing. However this effect passed over after only about half an hour and I went back to feeling fairly normal. I wondered if perhaps I hadn't taken enough of the drug in. Then something else happened. Two of my friends, Jane and a woman I’ll call “Kim”, were sitting opposite me on a pair of floor cushions. They both looked at me and sneered contemptuously. Then they started talking to each other and laughing, glancing at me every so often. Their facial expressions and the things they said left me in no doubt that they were making obscene and humiliating jokes about me. When we all stood up to dance to the music Jane and Kim came up and danced beside me to continue their cruel game. I feel uncomfortable writing about this; partly because the impression is painful to recall, but mostly because it was a complete delusion. Jane and Kim were actually doing nothing of the sort. They are both good friends of mine with whom we have a lot of mutual love and they've never been anything except very kind and respectful to me. The pipe had completely twisted my perception of other people’s behaviour; it had made me paranoid. In the end I could bear it no longer. I needed somewhere to escape, but I was finding movement difficult; the effects I experienced the first time, of the air around me becoming extremely dense and viscous, were hitting me hard now and I felt as if I were more swimming than walking, through something that was more like breathable water than air. I walked into an adjoining room where there was nobody else. I then did something very strange indeed; I found a large black blanket and covered myself with it. I then collapsed on a couch and laid there. I had the blanket right over my head and this made me feel much better; I just lifted it every so often to let in fresh air. The music and voices were quieter here and so I decided to stay there. I then drifted off into a stupor in which I had an amazing vision which I called “the fractal palace”. I found myself flying above a beautiful building; it resembled Moghul architecture, like the Royal Brighton Pavilion or Taj Mahal, but it was far bigger. As I flew higher and higher and I saw more and more of it; what I thought was the central structure of the building was actually just a small part of the battlements of a far bigger castle. That castle was in turn part of a castle greater still and ad infinitum. For a moment I was scared that I was trapped forever in the fractal palace, but then I decided that if so it was not really a problem. The vista was exquisite; the whole construction was the colour of burnished gold and the sky was that of a bright red sunset; I decided that it could have been a lot worse. I eventually regained consciousness, but it was a very strange kind of consciousness. It’s hard to describe, but it felt as if I had split apart into about seven different people. Each of these people were taking it in turns to “be me”, and there was a lot of jostling and pushing to be at the front of the queue, and as a result “I” was continuously changing. My friends came in and out of the room to talk to me, mostly to check and see if I was alright; and how I reacted to their presence depended very much on which of these inner people was at the front of the queue at the time. Sometimes they would change hands every few seconds. One of those people was somebody who was very close to my normal self, but he would only have a short stint in the driving seat before he was shoved aside in favour of somebody else who was a very different kind of animal. One of them was the one I called “the miserable git” who had been so paranoid as to misjudge Jane and Kim so badly. Another was the “Joker”, somebody very like how I was the first time I had smoked the pipe last year. He roared with laughter continuously at everything. At one point he was behind the wheel when another of my friends asked me: “Do you think we’ll ever see salvation, Ben?” The Joker inside me replied: “No, but we might see the Salvation Army.” This very weak quip would not normally even raise my eyebrow, however I doubled up with merriment as I uttered the words. Things were made more confusing in that I had completely lost my sense of location. I actually believed that Jane had taken us all to the Arena, a nightclub I used to frequent a long time ago. I believed that she and the others had thoughtlessly abandoned me in a back room on a couch while they were dancing and drinking in the main bar. What I thought was the “main bar” was in fact merely the adjoining room in Jane’s house where less than a dozen of our friends were partying. I honestly thought that it was a nightclub with several hundred people in it. My fantasy was logically impossible because the Arena was in Oxford, over a hundred miles away, and it no longer exists; it was actually shut down several years ago. However logic meant nothing in my piped state of mind. Another strange effect was that everything looked green. People’s faces, the walls, the coloured pictures, the velvet furniture etc; it was all various shades of green. I also saw that one of the cushions on the settee opposite had a face on it; this was crazy because it was just a crimson silk cushion with a few flowery frills on it. However I distinctly saw its face, as clearly as I see my own now in a mirror. The face was scowling angrily at me and the miserable git inside me felt offended by it. Notional time had slowed down. I had puffed on the pipe at about 6.30 PM and it felt as if the whole evening had passed and it was now close to midnight. I was astonished to discover that it was only 8:10 PM; I’d been under the influence of the pipe for less than two hours. One of the strangest aspects of all to the experience was there was a time lag between understanding something and perceiving it. For example I decided to ask somebody for a glass of water when I didn't feel thirsty, yet when they returned with the water I felt parched and was very relieved to drink it. And weirdest of all, several times events repeated themselves. For instance, Jane came into the room, said something and then left; yet a few minutes later she came back into the room and said the very identical thing as if she were a video recording of herself. Luckily the miserable git was at the back of the queue at the time and so I didn't assume Jane was doing it on purpose to mock me.
The drug was wearing off by now and very gradually, I began to return to normal. Everything in my vision no longer looked green; I was aware of where I was, not in the Arena but in Jane’s house, and the hallucinations eased off. Cushions once more looked as they should look, just like cushions. I felt very embarrassed by my antics and apologized to everybody, but they were very understanding and told me not to worry about it. I wasn't the only pipe-head in the joint either; when I finally reentered the main room I saw Kim lying fast asleep on the floor cushions. I had a few glasses of wine and joined the rest of my friends. A few people had arrived while I had been under the influence of the pipe and so I had to be introduced to them again. Ustane did a delightful bellydance routine which I was aware enough to enjoy. As with the first time last year, the effects of the pipe lingered. Even the following morning I had a “stoneover”; I was still slightly high. I was reasonably normal, but felt very emotionally sensitive; I burst into floods of tears when Ustane read her poignant poem Beautiful Adam, which is based on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I did so a few more times, even when Jane was driving us to the railway station for our journey home. The subject of the film Harvey came up and I completely broke down over it, see: http://hpanwo.blogspot.co.uk/2008/03/imaginary-friends.html. I don’t think I was completely free of the pipe’s effect for the entire rest of the day, that’s over twenty-four hours after I’d taken it. It’s sobering to think how fragile our sense of self is; just a trace amount of a particular common natural chemical in the brain can make you transform into a totally different individual to the one you’re familiar with, and who every else is familiar with. However, there is no doubt that one’s sense of self is in some way hardwired into our brains, because as soon as the chemical is removed from the bloodstream we immediately return to our normal selves. I know of people whose brains have been damaged by injury or illness who undergo permanent personality changes. These people remain the same individuals, in the sense that they have the same memories and consciousness, yet they become unrecognisible to those around them; their spouse, family and friends have to get to know them again from scratch. It raises vital questions about the nature of consciousness; who are we really? After the first time I took the drug I felt indifferent about trying it a second time. My experience with it had been enjoyable and interesting. This time I feel positively reluctant ever to imbibe the pipe again. I don’t regret going through the experience because it was something I entered into of my own free will and I can blame nobody but myself. It was also an interesting experience, in retrospect at least. Seeing the fractal palace was wonderful. However it was still a very frightening and distressing trip; at times it was nightmarish. I do urge caution to anybody who experiments with drugs. I’m not a drugs prohibitionist; on the contrary, in fact I’m in favour of legalizing all drugs. Also drugs used sensibly can be very beneficial and I’m frankly suspicious at the government’s motives for criminalizing so many of them, see: http://hpanwo-voice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/fluoride-and-pineal.html. However, they are not something to be indulged in lightly; they should be used only by responsible adults with full awareness of what’s involved and with the necessary precautions in place, “set and setting” etc. Even very simple and easily accessible substances can have powerful psychedelic effects with some people some of the time. Graham Hancock has candidly spoken about his own drug addiction and how he got over it, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsu2-I2q6dg. In my case I was luckily surrounded by caring and sympathetic people. I dread to think what it would have been like if I’d been intoxicated like that at, say, a porters’ night out in the hospital social club. In a way I’m still glad about what I did. Just because an experience is unpleasant doesn’t make it worthless or detrimental in the long term. Quite the opposite in fact, adversity can be very character-building and however awful you might feel when you’re in the middle of it, afterwards you may well look back and be glad that event happened. I’m beginning to feel that way about being kicked out of portering, see: http://hpanwo-hpwa.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/one-year-on.html. The same goes for my recent bad drug experience. As the saying goes: “What doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger!”