A Journey to Hell and Back Again

I stated in Me, LSD & The Meaning of Life that I did not believe in the concept of a bad trip, seeing as LSD does not create anything, it only allows one to express and therefore any experience on LSD is simply an expression of your own mental state. I’m not going back on this; I think it’s true that a 100% secure person would be OK no matter what happens, that is in fact the definition of secure. However, there is secure and then there is secure; the latter not being something that we are tested against in mortal life. This, dear reader, is my personal account of a field trip to hell and back again.

Just over a week ago I received a new batch of LSD analogues: 1P-LSD, ALD-52 and ETH-LAD. These were manufactured by a large, international pharmaceutical company in Germany (surprised, really? They also manufacture LSD-25 and cocaine) and hence of extremely high quality — which is reassuring and worth the small premium over the could-be-anything stuff that sells on the street. I am mildly amused by the concept that illegality only seems to be effective on medium-size businesses, leaving garage operations as well as billion-dollar companies unaffected — not so different from the concept that only the middle-class pay most of the taxes.

This time I wanted a mind-blown type experience. I’d been upping the dose, first from 50mcg to 100mcg, 300mcg and 400mcg of 1P-LSD. I’d heard (read online) that ALD-52 and ETH-LAD are even better (read: more potent) than 1P-LSD and the original LSD-25. So a week ago I took 3 tabs of ALD-52 and 3 tabs of ETH-LAD, for a total of 600mcg, mixing two different analogues. I can’t say it was the best decision I’ve ever made, but I did get the mind-blown experience so it wasn’t exactly like I failed.

To give some perspective, two days ago I took 200mcg of ALD-52 and had an extremely intense experience — almost too much, but just OK… on the borderline. AND that is considering that I probably still had tolerance from the 600mcg last week. So let’s just say that 600mcg was 4–5x more potent than what I took two days ago, which itself was pretty crazy. Plus I’d never taken this type of LSD before and so I didn’t know what to expect.

In retrospect I suppose this all looks rather foolish. I’ll give two perspectives on that. First, if anyone has ever thought of me as arrogant they can now be forever satisfied that it did one day turn around to bite me in the ass and I got the ultimate comeuppance. Second, despite the experience being the worst experience of my life by far… it was actually worth it considering what I learned.

So here we go…

Three tabs of ALD-52 and three of ETH-LAD ingested. I’m home alone. The effects kick in much sooner than expected, within minutes rather than the usual 30 minutes to an hour, which was worrying but I wasn’t familiar with the effects of the drug and I had the just-go-with-it mindset, which is basically a requirement for hallucinogenics anyway. But it kept coming up, fast and hard.

I venture from the balcony down to my room (it’s a duplex apartment, the bedrooms are downstairs) and lay down. Walking is not easy; I’m losing basic motor skills. I start to worry, then immediately realize my mistake and try to reassure myself… too late, I don’t believe my reassurances; I’m already worried. Shit. I try to just go with it, but it’s aggressive, my feeling is worry so if I go with it I’m feeding the worry, but if I pull away from it I’m admitting that I’m worried and that also amplifies the worry. I’m trapped; if I go with it the worry grows and if I struggle the worry grows, and it’s still getting stronger. This turns worry into fear.

Now I feel sick. Is it really feeling sick or just imagining feeling sick? At this point I’m not sure of the difference anyway. I somehow, probably not very elegantly, make my way the bathroom. Now I really understand what’s going on: this is a bad trip and it’s on a downward spiral. I’m losing stable visuals: my bathroom normally is not made of flashes and black & white electric lines, it normally isn’t melting, and normally I know which way is up. I start throwing up in the vague direction of where I remember the toilet to be.

It’s still getting stronger. Things are now getting really hairy. I’m losing cognitive ability. The problem with losing one’s mind is that the thing that let’s you know that you’re losing your mind is the same as the thing that’s being lost, making it quite difficult to determine what’s going on. However, at this point it was coming in waves with moments of relative clarity in between. At some point I realized that I’d been pacing (to the best of my ability) in the bathroom, having forgotten what was going on, and just being overwhelmed with fear. When I say I had forgotten what was going on I mean that I kept losing touch with mind and just being sucked into the only thing that was stable: terror. I kept forgetting where I was, who I was and what was happening, and I was unable to make any sense of anything. In moments of clarity I’d remember what was going on, realize that I was losing my mind and losing touch with reality, realize that it was still getting stronger and realize that the moments of clarity were getting fewer and further between. I kept getting stuck in what felt like time repeating itself over and over as I’d forget what was happening, remember, forget, remember… I don’t know how many times this happened.

It was still getting stronger. The feeling is difficult to explain. My mind and body were being bombarded with a continuous tsunami of what felt like particles, or electricity, all of which in the form of pure terror. It was like if you’ve ever been caught in continuous crashing waves with an undercurrent; you get sucked down, are unable to breathe and struggle to get your head above water, when immediately another wave relentlessly crashes over you and you’re sucked underwater again.

Stronger still. The force of the invasion was so overwhelmingly powerful that it was forcibly destroying the barriers between senses. I felt that the senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, have barriers between them that stop sensation from crossing over from one to another. It’s not uncommon with LSD for the senses to bleed into each other, in a comfortable way. This time the barriers were literally smashed through under the overwhelming force of the invasion, as if they were nothing, like a tsunami sweeping over a city. As the sense barriers were smashed through, those senses were possessed and became agents of terror themselves.

Smash! There is no touch; only terror. Smash! There is no sound; only terror. Smash! There is no sight; only terror! Smash! Smash!

To put it another way: it felt like my soul was being raped by demons. This metaphor is barely a metaphor and it is not an exaggeration; it’s an under-exaggeration. ‘Rape’ is precisely the correct word because my body and mind were being forcibly penetrated against my will. ‘Demon’ is the correct word because the invaders were, without metaphor, the very essence of terror.

Now you might assume that with the feeling of having my soul raped by demons and the senses becoming possessed by the terror demons that I would therefore start hallucinating an actual demon-rape. Or maybe you think that’s too far-fetched. Well it’s not far-fetched, it’s under-appreciating the gravity of what was happening. You see, in order to hallucinate demon-rape that would require some part of my mind to create an image of a demon, which means that part of my mind would not be engaged in the sensation of terror but instead busy creating images. Every part of my mind and every cell of my body was becoming fully engaged in terror only. There was no space for imagination; there was no room for thought; there were no free brain cells for even feeling sorry for myself. Everything was terror; only terror; continuous relentless terror. There was nothing else: no time, no space, no thought. Just terror. Or at least: that was where I knew I was heading. This is literally the absolute maximum pain it is possible for a human being to experience, and so it is the very definition of hell — that is where I was heading.

You might be wondering at this point what my body was doing during this time. At some point I temporarily returned to enough clarity to become vaguely aware that I was lying on the bathroom floor hyperventilating with my heart pounding faster than I’ve ever before known. The knowledge that I could easily vomit and drown on my own sick without even noticing didn’t help the feeling of terror, although that thought was not as bad as the hell that I was in. The idea of someone on a bad trip rocking back and forward crying or screaming is laughable compared to the state that I was in; I would have given anything for enough freedom of mind to be able to scream.

By this point the world was gone. There was no room; no reality. Nothing was stable. I was in another realm; a realm of terror.

As my mind and senses were being ravaged, I retreated deeper and deeper into a part of my mind I didn’t even know was there. But the demons kept on following me; of course they did: I commanded them, how could I hide from them? One cannot hide from their own mind… or can they?

In a final moment of clarity I held a quick meeting; or perhaps a long meeting, I had no concept of time. My split-selves were present with me, which is unsurprising with this much LSD, as was my higher-self, who as per usual was passively interested and empathetic with what was going on but wasn’t that bothered (since higher-selves are beyond the concept of good and bad.) I knew that if I fully trusted myself I could choose to face the demons instead of retreating, and overpower them. My first question was: “how is this happening, surely I trust myself?” Immediate answer: “obviously not this much.” Shit. I couldn’t argue it: if I did trust myself then this wouldn’t already be happening, and I knew the answer to be true. I was aware that I was creating the terror, but I couldn’t stop it, as I will explain in the following analogy.

Imagine there was a button in front off me labelled ‘terror’. If I pressed the button I would experience terror, until I stopped pressing it. I had unwittingly pressed the ‘terror’ button. However, while the button was pressed I experienced what I described before: complete overpowering of terror. The problem here is that once I pressed the terror button I was using all of what was left of my mental energy on trying to resist it, with the majority of my mind being possessed as an agent of terror. To remove my finger from the button would require a moment of reduced resistance because some mental power would be used to command the finger to move. I was unable to remove my finger from the terror button because I was so in terror that I felt that if even for one nanosecond I was distracted from resisting the terror then that part of my mind would become terror too, I’d forget what I was doing and it would completely overwhelm me. I didn’t trust myself to remember to actually remove my finger from the button if I stopped resisting long enough to even consider removing my finger. Even if it would have worked I also didn’t dare face that one nanosecond where I would be resisting less because it was just so bad that any amount of time experiencing that was to be avoided at all costs.

So I was trapped in a downward spiral accelerating towards the worst possible experience one can have, which I was causing myself but unable to stop causing because I thought it would finish me if stopped resisting long enough to change it. Yet I was still spiraling downwards; I was still retreating; the demons were still following.

Back to the meeting with my split-selves: somewhere in the deep depths of my mind I made my last stand. I gave an order upwards “save me!”. This itself was an interesting concept because it was an order made up the chain of command, from my lower-self to my higher-self, and I knew that it was made in a way that must be obeyed. My higher-self made a signal (an entire concept in one ball of thought), not to me but to my split-selves and they all jumped into action and left, in different directions, leaving me alone. I also understood the instructions from my higher-self: I was causing the invasion but was unable to stop it, the split-selves were to take different positions across my mind and control my mind, but I was not to be aware of exactly what they were doing or how they were doing it, since I was effectively in control of the demons and would foil the plan if I knew precisely what was going on.

For an unknown amount of time, which I later found when I came to and checked to be five hours, I was fully conscious… of nothing. I was conscious but I was not aware of anything. I thought nothing, focused on nothing but without trying not to think. The terror did not go away but it didn’t get any worse, and I rode it out. While I know I was conscious I have little memory of this time, because there was nothing to remember. I was kept at a state of no-thought and rode out the experience.

I do remember something that happened just before I came to, as the ravaging was beginning to slow down and I was beginning to get back cognitive ability. I had the experience of forgetting… everything. There are levels of forgetting everything. At first it’s easy enough; you feel something shift and suddenly you don’t remember something, like maybe your name, or where you live. As this continues you forget more and more. Each time it happens it’s an entire concept that disappears, which tells you something about how memory and the mind works: language, people, physical reality, etc. It gets interesting when the fact that you’ve taken LSD is forgotten because then you no longer understand why it is happening. As it continues you forget reality, you forget self, you forget everything until there is nothing at all — just void. Just void AND the one thing that is consistent throughout that experience: the feeling that you used to have something, but now it’s gone. The end of this is void; you don’t remember how long you’ve been there (you’ve forgotten time), you don’t know what has happened, all you know is the one thing you’ve been clinging on to: that there was something before — but now it’s gone. It’s a terrifying experience — although so much less terrifying than what I’d been through before so I wasn’t overly concerned. I suspect that’d have been the most terrifying experience of my life, and the feature of an article instead of a paragraph, if I had not just been through something infinitely more terrifying.

When my memory returned and I came back from the void I opened my eyes. I was lying on my bed (I don’t remember getting there.) What I saw was a shaky, warped version of what was my room with lots of little critters running around. I was so relieved. It was the most stable thing I’d ever seen! It was this world! I was back from hell. I’d never been so happy to see this world. And I cried.

What I Learned

Despite the experience being so terrible I’m glad to have experienced it. The perspectives I got were worth it; to be honest I think it’s what I needed — although I wouldn’t have said that at the time.

It completely changed my view of reality. To have such a low low puts everything into perspective. I’ll illustrate this in pictorial form.

This is me before LSD:

Then after a few initial experiences:

And now:

Reality is relative. However, the reality that we exist in most of the time, i.e. this universe, is extremely stable and extremely safe. The worst things that can happen on Earth aren’t that bad — they’re really not. If you don’t believe me go back and read this article again. It’s an incredibly secure existence that we live here on Earth, in this universe.

This reality keeps us anchored. No matter what happens inside of us the external world, and through that our interpretation of our own mind, are anchored. I think of this like an anchor on a boat. As long as the boat is anchored it is safe; it may swing around a bit and the weather is sometimes good and sometimes bad but overall it’s safe where it is. Security and freedom are mutually exclusive; if you want to explore you’re going to have to pull up that anchor, but if you do so anything could happen. The boat is no longer safe without the anchor, and yet you can explore the depths of reality and you can have all kinds of adventures.

When I opened my eyes and came back to this reality I was amazed at its security. Right now, the chair that I’m sitting in is a chair, has been a chair for as long as I’ve known it, it’s still a chair in this moment, and I trust it’s going to stay a chair for quite some time. If I forget about it it’s still here. Whatever I’m thinking of doesn’t change it’s form. That level of security simply didn’t exist on my journey to hell and back. It’s something that we take for granted, but it’s not something that is inherent within reality; it’s a feature of this universe, making this universe incredibly safe and secure.

That also taught me something about how to manipulate this universe. You see, an unstable reality responds directly to thought/intention/expectation. This universe is so secure that it doesn’t appear to respond to these things, but I rather suspect that it does respond to them, only less obviously. I’m not a fan of new-age literature, which is mostly nonsense, but that’s not to say that they don’t accidentally get something right every now and again. All that stuff about the power of positive thinking is, while quite a simplified model without proper understanding, actually how all reality works — including this reality. It’s just that this reality keeps us from hurting ourselves too much by establishing a secure foundation: physical matter. Physical matter doesn’t just change by itself like it does in less stable realities… or does it? Given time all matter in this universe will decay into something else, it just takes a long time. So it’s quite clear to me that this universe works in the same way as other realities, it’s just slower to respond, giving an illusion that we have less control over our environment than we actually have, yet giving us a safety net or an anchor to pull us back if we get lost. In an unstable reality, if you get lost then what is going to pull you back? The reality would change to emphasize your being lost and you’d become even more lost. As soon as you believed you were lost then all of the signs would change to point you in the wrong direction as a reflection of your mental state. This world provides an anchor for you to come back to, but that is not to say it doesn’t respond to your mental state at all. You can still manipulate it with thought.

Finally, I learned about trust and security and what that really means. It might well be relative, whereas before I thought of it as absolute (probably foolishly, nothing appears to be absolute.) I thought there is such a thing as trusting oneself fully, perhaps there isn’t. I understand the hellish experience I had to be heading towards maximum pain as I can experience as a human, because while I was having an experience in another reality, I’m still human and so I was always still anchored to this reality in some sense. There was a maximum pain due to my human mind being limited and everything being interpreted via what I already know; but if I was not anchored to this reality it could have been far worse.

At what level does one stop trusting oneself? As long as there is an unknown, and as long as pain can keep getting worse, there must always be a point when one stops trusting oneself. There can always be an unknown because you can always forget. It’s all very well trusting yourself, but trust is a feeling; you can forget it. It’s all very well being secure until you lose your mind and don’t remember what made you secure. How much of a risk are you willing to take? What contexts are you secure in? How about if everyone you looked at instantly died; how secure would you be then? How about if this very moment you suddenly lost sight, hearing and touch; how secure would you be then? What about if everyone started acting as if you were invisible — you think you’d still be secure?

In summary: everything is relative. The reality we live in is immensely safe and secure, but that is both a blessing and a curse: it stops us from experiencing low lows, but it also stops us from experiencing high highs. Stability is a feature of this universe, it’s not a feature of reality. Reality is so, so much more than what we know here on Earth, but it goes down as well as up — this universe is a pretty good base from which to explore.

Read more about my LSD adventures and the nature of reality:
Me, LSD & The Meaning of Life
Eggs, a Short Story from Ali’s Adventures in Wonderland
Reverse Engineering a Higher State of Consciousness
A Journey to Hell and Back Again
The World Has Gone Mad
Me, LSD & Everything
The End of the Line: Looking Back

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