Psychedelic Experiences as Mirror of the Nondual Self
"I'll tell you a secret: life is a mirror and all that we see comes from the same source – the illusion of you – the illusion of me. The world is a playground, filled with wonder and tragedy. It's the One Song that sings all into being . . . "
From the song, "Embracing the Endless Sky"
This essay will address the question of psychedelic experience from a nondual framework. As such, psychedelic experiences are seen as reflections, projections, and interactions between different levels of the self; the individualized ego in relationship to the universal/nondual nature of the self that transcends the apparent divide between self and other, subject and object. The result is that “spirits” and “entities” and even “other realms” are analyzed as products of the ego and therefore not fundamentally “real” in any significant sense, other than as projections that exist temporarily in the expanded perceptual and imaginative realm of entheogen users. Personal examples are provided to illustrate this point and provide a reference for how psychedelic experiences can be appreciated from a nondual perspective.
A common question that arises for psychedelic users is this: what is the ontological status of what is seen and experienced in the psychedelic state? For example, if someone smokes some DMT and then experiences aliens and space stations, spirits and entities, or machine elves, it is only natural to wonder what the reality of such experiences are. Did you really meet an alien, or is there something else going on? Are all these things really "out there," and can psychedelics facilitate actual encounters with strange beings and realms? A difficulty with this question arises from the fact that the “objects” of psychedelic experiences only exist in the immediate perceptual state of the user. In other words, we are not able to investigate beings, objects, and realms in any ordinary manner, such as with the everyday lived world. Even if these things exist “out there” somewhere, they are only experienced “in here,” in the perceptions and experiences of psychedelic users, and therefore cannot be addressed objectively such as through standard scientific investigation. This limitation points to the fact that the real question is about the observer, and not the so-called “objects” of experience, as it is really only the observer we can say anything about with any reliability.
When it comes to psychedelics, especially where highly hallucinatory psychedelics are concerned, such as with DMT, many have chosen to adopt what we might call the psychonautical/exploratory model when it comes to such ontological questions about the nature of reality. It's quite popular to think of DMT and other psychedelics as providing a methodology for encountering "the Other," as Terence McKenna liked to phrase it. With this model, though specifics vary, the general idea is that psychedelics provide users with access to other realms of reality in "hyperspace," the "spirit world," the "Akashic records," alternate realities, the "multiverse," parallel timelines, past lives, and even alien civilizations and planets. In its simplest formation, this model states: all of this is fundamentally real, and psychedelics, like a spaceship or inter-dimensional portal, provide direct access to these hidden levels of reality and can transcend the limitations of space and time.
Though popular, and perhaps pleasing to the modern mind for a variety of reasons, this model is fundamentally incorrect as it is both created by, and filtered through, the ego. Since the ego is itself an illusion, albeit a persistent and sophisticated one, the models the ego creates to account for what it experiences as "other" are also illusory. Without an enlightened perspective on the true nature of the self, any theories or models of "otherness" are bound for failure, for they do not adequately address the nature of the one perceiving and experiencing otherness. Basically, models of otherness that do not give a full account of selfhood cannot be correct, for they begin with an inadequate notion of the perceiving and experiencing self to begin with, and therefore are created on a foundation that is illusory.
To fully address this problem, we need to turn the question around. The real question isn't; "what is the nature of entities and realms that are experienced in psychedelic states?" so much as it is; "what is the nature of the one experiencing a psychedelic state?" Only by addressing the latter question can we begin to formulate an answer to the former. Before pondering the question of what we see and experience, we need to ponder just who and what we are that sees and experiences such things. If we can understand the perceiving subject, then we are better positioned to understand the objects of that subject's experience. In this sense, questions about psychedelic objects is really a question about the psychedelic subject.
The vast majority of all psychedelic experiences, as well as ordinary, everyday experiences in general, are dualistic in nature, meaning that there is an apparent separation and divide between subject and object, what is self and that which is deemed, assumed, and perceived to be not-self, or other; the perceiver, and that which is perceived. What if this divide is itself an illusion and not, at the most fundamental level, truly real? If it isn't real, then both what we think of ourselves, let alone the otherness that we perceive and experience in psychedelic states, is also plagued by not being truly real. Yet, how can we know? If we are trapped in a very sophisticated illusion, how can we see beyond it? How can we come to know reality as it is, versus how it persistently appears? If everything is divided by the illusion of duality, then how can we ever have genuine knowledge of the nature of the self and that which it experiences?
The solution to this seemingly intractable problem is nondual experience and realization. Nondual experience provides a foundation upon which one can come to understand the nature of self and the nature of other because it transcends this apparent divide and presents a unitary state of being from which one can develop genuine self-knowledge. Only nondual experience can provide this, for every other experience is trapped in the illusions of duality and is colored by the persistent interpretive structures of the ego.
Not only has the majority of humanity never had a full nondual experience, but the same is true for the majority of psychedelic users, as well. Nondual experience is exceedingly rare, even where psychedelics and profoundly altered states of consciousness are concerned. When it comes to psychedelics, the one that most reliably provides access to the full nondual state is 5-MeO-DMT, and most others, DMT included, pale, by comparison, in this regard. And even where 5-MeO-DMT is concerned, not everyone who consumes it has a nondual experience, and with those who do, processing and integrating it can be monumentally challenging, for everything post-experience is still filtered through the limiting structures of the ego.
The nondual experience arises when the ego (which is a collection of energetic patterns of expression, self-identification, and behavioral and psychological processing that creates the impression of an individuated self) fully relaxes and lets go, allowing an individual to surrender fully to the process of energetic opening and expansion, and is most often perceived by the ego as dying (and hence the term "ego death"). Though a transient and temporary phenomenon, the impact of such an experience is monumental, as it immediately and definitively reveals all other possible experiences as being constructed around the apparent (and illusory) divide between self and other, whereas the nondual experience clearly transcends such relative distinctions. For those who have such an experience, it is generally appreciated as being more fundamentally real and true than any other kind of experience – it is revelatory and absolute in nature.
In this experience, not only have individual constructs of identity been transcended, but also all sense of "otherness," as well. Since there is no definitive "self" or personal identity present, neither is there any presence of that which might be deemed to be other, or not-self. Otherness can only be perceived or experienced when there is an ego, or particular identity, that is simultaneously present. Perceptions of otherness reinforce the ego, and vice-versa. They are an entwined duality, and you generally don't get one without the other. When these constructs fall away, reality can be directly and immediately experienced as what it truly is: one unified system in which all such distinctions are merely relative constructs of experience and identity.
While there may be visual aspects to the nondual experience and state of awareness, such as infinite scintillating rainbow-refracted pure white light, emanating and expanding in all directions simultaneously in fabulously complex geometric and fractal forms, this is not the primary characteristic of the nondual state, and no visual content is necessary or even truly relevant. What is of far greater importance is the feeling, and the sense of direct knowing that is characteristic of the nondual state. There is direct and immediate sense that this state is the fundamental ground of reality, that it is infinite, beyond past, present or future, contains all possibilities simultaneously, transcends subject and object, is pure energy, infinite love, infinite consciousness, infinite awareness, and infinite being. And most importantly, the undeniable recognition that "this" is what "you" truly are, as well as including "everything else."
In the most straightforward language, the nondual experience is the direct experience that you are God (here the term is used in a neutral and non-religiously specific manner and is not intended to imply any particular religious view) – and that this does not apply exclusively to the ego-identified "you," as it reveals that everything and everyone is God. All of reality is one Unitary Being that, through complex and subtle illusory constructs, is able to experience itself dualistically; yet duality is here encountered as a kind of game, a style of play, which involves intentional self-deception and attachment to illusions in order to not only be experienced, but also believed and accepted as real. God, nondual reality, is everything all the time, despite how things may appear to any given perceiving and experiencing subject.
Another way of stating this is to say that reality is filled with many characters and props, but there is only one actual actor playing all the parts (and the props) simultaneously. Reality is simply God interacting with itself, as there is nothing else. Everything and everyone literally is ONE.
Yet another way to articulate and describe this state of being is to say that everything that is experienced as reality is, in truth, an experience of a very complex mirror. As an experiencing subject that is wrapped in the disguise of an ego or separate self, what we perceive as being "other" is in fact the self, but is not recognized as such. When the self-identification falls away in the nondual experience, the mirror of reality is experienced as it truly is: you are God directly experiencing yourself as God without the limited filter of the ego. While all dualistic states are also mirrors, the experiences are distorted by the limiting lens of the ego, which must construct its reality experience across the divide of self and other.
As we begin to contemplate the apparent "otherness" of psychedelic states of consciousness, when we apply a nondual understanding, we can begin to see that what seems to be other isn't. It is a misapprehension in the universal mirror of the self. Most accurately, such perceptions can be seen to be projections and constructs on the part of the ego of the one perceiving and experiencing them in relationship to more universal and non-personal aspects of the self with which one is interacting in a form of self-created imaginative play. As long as the ego has not been transcended in the nondual state, then by default, there will be perceptions of otherness. One of the functions of the ego is to identify the objects of its experience (in relation to the supposed self), and here, in psychedelic states, it can quite literally mean putting a face and identity on perceptions, which effectively masks nondual reality, and reinforces the assumption of separation and personal identity.
Just imagine, for a moment, that you've never seen your own reflection in a mirror. Would you recognize yourself if you were suddenly introduced to a mirror? Or might you think that the image that you saw was someone else, someone other, and not you? And what if the mirror wasn't just a static, reflective surface, but was interactive in such a way that it was complimentary to your mental, emotional, and energetic state? For example, if you suddenly caught sight of your unrecognized self, and were amazed by the experience, the image in the mirror might take on qualities of being amazing, not merely reflecting you, but expressing and embodying you, as well. Or if you were fearful, suddenly the reflected image might appear frightening and menacing. It is not merely a reflection, but also an interactive projection.
Simply put, psychedelic/visionary states are amplifications and projections of inner energetic states of being. They are interactive mirror projections. If the perceptual nexus that is perceiving such phenomena is masked and distorted (via the ego), then the appearances will be distorted and masked in a way that is complimentary and reflective. All of it, however, is actually you – the real you: God in disguised and interactive form.
As such, psychedelic visionary states are immediately and directly influenced by an individual's capacity to relax, trust, and let go. They are influenced by an individual's sense and experience of fear and love. They are influenced by propensities of intellectual projection and mental and emotional attachment. They are influenced by immediate social context in which the experience occurs. They are influenced by environmental stimuli. They are influenced by personal history and personal behavioral patterns. Everything that goes into maintaining the facade of the ego can influence psychedelic experiences and visions. And beyond the ego is the vast and infinite creative well of transformation and manifestation that is the unitary being of God, shaped into beings, objects, and fractal and geometric formations by the perceiving and experiencing ego in what we might call "the Divine Imagination." The Divine imagination is not limited to personal history, thoughts, beliefs, or even basic rules of space and time, order and disorder – it is potentially limitless in terms of content, presentation, meaningfulness, and significance. It is the deep well of the Universal Self from which all particulars arise.
To illustrate the argument made above, I will here share some of my own personal experiences, and how I interpret them from a nondual perspective. What follows is just a few examples from my own, rather extensive, and varied, experience with psychedelics and entheogens. Many of my own books detail my experiences, and in an attempt to not simply repeat what I have shared elsewhere, I'll mostly stick to more recent examples.
To begin, however, I'll state upfront that my position on the matter, as has been articulated above in the ontological overview, is that of an unapologetic radical nondualist. Once I started experiencing nondual states, and subsequently effectively liberated myself from the persistent confines of the ego via a rather challenging and often grueling process of energetic opening, clearing, and transformation, I learned to relax into the reality that I, and everyone and everything else, am God. Whereas prior to this transformation (which is recounted in great detail in my memoir, Being Infinite), I was open to the possibility that spirits, machine elves, alien encounters, astral realms, etc., might be, in some sense, truly real, I'm now certain that this is not the case, due to the reasons I've provided above. Via my personal experiences, and also via many years of working with others in one-on-one nondual psychedelic sessions with a wide variety of entheogenic medicines (with 5-MeO-DMT predominating, and for the record, a practice from which I am now retired), I am confident that none of these things are "real" in any substantial sense – they are all just interactive projections that arise when the ego is present in some form, and can be transcended via full nondual absorption into the absolute state of being. The clearer the individual, the fewer blocks and attachments that are present via the ego, the less likely such projection events are to occur, and when they do, they are clearly recognized as manifestations of the self that are not, in any way, deemed to be "other."
In sum, I've learned how to recognize myself in everything that I experience. Note that it is not the case that I've learned how to recognize the character known as "Martin" in everything. "Martin" is just a character and person that is associated with this particular human embodiment of the one universal consciousness and intelligence that is God, and the same is true for all other people, beings, and objects of experience. Our true nature lies beyond the distinction of subject and object, as is revealed in the nondual state. "Martin" is just a persistent perspective that is built around a collection of energetic states, patterns, expressions, and identification, and at best is a relative individual, but not an absolute individual. The actual nature of the "I" is universal and non-specifically identified. Thus in stating that I've learned to see "myself" in all things, I'm speaking of my universal nature, and not my individual nature. However, my individual perspective also informs and shapes the objects of my experience, my immediate self included, as well as my psychedelic experiences. In other words, I've learned how to recognize both my personal as well as universal contributions to my direct experience and perspective. Furthermore, this recognition extends beyond psychedelic experiences to include all my experiences – everyday, normal experiences, dreams, psychedelics states, etc. I also contend that such recognition is necessary for any kind of fundamental liberation from the illusory confines of the construct that is the human ego.
In past writings, I've shared a great deal of my experiences with psilocybin, DMT, 5-MeO-DMT, ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, peyote, etc., so here I'll focus on something a bit more novel; MDMA. Though many like to argue that MDMA isn't truly a psychedelic and is more properly understood as an "entactogen," this is an assessment that I thoroughly disagree with via my personal experiences. Up until two years ago (at the time of the original writing of this essay), I had only had two experiences with MDMA, and thus my experience was rather limited. However, recently, I've become quite fond of the MDMA experience, and regularly conducted some personal research into MDMA phenomenology, consuming it by myself, in a dark room, lying down, and listening to music via headphones and resting comfortably in whatever would unfold and present itself. I also decided to experiment with combining MDMA with other psychedelic compounds to see how they might synergize together, such as psilocybin, edible and vaporized cannabis, MXE, 4-AcO-DMT, and 5-MeO-DMT. While visual psychedelic phenomena were enhanced through making such combinations (and were quite novel and unique to each combination), they also showed up regularly with just MDMA (and also MDA).
In winter in 2017 I released a paper on the internet in PDF format entitled, "A Phenomenological Inventory of MDMA Psychedelic Visuals," and subsequently gave a presentation at the 2017 Exploring Psychedelics conference on the same subject where I shared in detail the wide variety of things I'd seen on MDMA and what common themes were present in terms of geometry, visual appearance, subject matter, etc. Here, I will give just a few examples from that paper/talk, as well as a newer experience that involves an exotic cocktail of molecular letters and numbers.
Universal/Impersonal Visionary Content:
"Sacred" geometry, geometric tessellations, and fractals: Personally, I'm not fond of the term "sacred," however it may be applied. This is due to my unrelenting nondual position: everything everywhere at all times is one unitary being and consciousness, i.e., God. Because God is everything, labeling anything in particular as "sacred" is a bit silly, and clearly a projection and attachment of the human ego, which wants to identify some things/people/events/ideas as somehow more important than others, which, in the vast field of infinite and unconditional love and unitary identity, comes off as not only silly, but limited and misconstrued. Putting that concern aside, however, I can say that "sacred" geometry regularly made an appearance in my MDMA sessions, both as "raw" visionary objects, as well as covering the surface of visionary objects, and also playing roles in more "narrative" or "scene" generated visionary content. Here, think of things like the "flower of life" image of interlaced circles, and "Metatron's cube," and "Merkaba" geometric structures. These kinds of formations showed up on a regular basis in a way that was clearer and more distinct than I've ever seen on any other psychedelic compound. Additionally, solid geometric shape tessellations and arabesques were exceedingly common – undulating planes of triangles/pyramids, squares/cubes, circles/spheres, and more complex polygons, both 2D and 3D in structure and arrangements (think of Sierpinski triangle formations and fractal structures). And there were the appearance of Mandelbrot sets, lattice grids, and other easily recognized fractal structures.
All of these I recognized as "myself" in the universal and nondual sense. As I've articulated in my book, Being Human: An Entheological Guide to God, Evolution, and the Fractal Energetic Nature of Reality, fractals and geometric structures are the basic formative elements of the energetic structure of reality/God/being/perception/thought/experience. So, seeing and experiencing such phenomena is not so much a seeing of something as it is a direct perception of the formative structures of the universal self, much as I might, from my embodied perspective, look at my hands and legs and torso and other parts of my body. Reality, as we experience and perceive it, is made out of fractals and geometry. Seeing such is an example of "looking into the mirror" of the self, and seeing it fairly clearly and unobstructed or distorted by personal projection or the introduction of subject/object duality.
Universal, Combined with Personal, Visionary Content:
A couple surprising visitors: quite common to my MDMA experiences were visionary states that included highly realistic, and surprisingly detailed, renditions of other people, the majority of which were unknown to me, personally. These appeared in a wide variety of contexts and scenes (most were completely ordinary in appearance with no obvious "psychedelic" effects). In all such cases, I appreciated all appearances as merely being other embodied versions of myself – again, the universal self, not the "Martin" self. Because I have accepted the reality that all other people are, in fact, just other versions of the universal self, of which I am one particular embodiment, and because I have learned how to love myself unconditionally and universally, these appearances were often accompanied by feelings of unconditional love for those particular formations of human identities that showed up in the visionary state.
During one such session, a very peculiar and unexpected event took place. In this particular visionary unfolding, as I was lying down, eyes closed, riding through the MDMA vastness, from my visionary perspective, I found myself facing a long line of unidentified people. They were all of various ages, races, ethnicities, etc., - a vast panoply of humanity. One by one, each figure came before "me" (which was just a perspective; there was no sense of having a particular body or identity), and we shared a moment of unconditional love between "us." All of this was rather automatic and there was no one and nothing that stood out about this event until someone I recognized showed up next in line. Before the big reveal, it's important to note that this was in the summer of 2016, and the US presidential campaign was on full display in all its bizarre horror. So, it was something that had been on my mind, as with everyone else, as we were moving further into election season. Very much to my surprise, there was Hillary Clinton, pantsuit and all, standing there, waiting for her turn at a little unconditional love. Though surprised, I didn't have much difficulty participating in this with Hillary. My personal opinion is that while she had her flaws as a candidate, I have some basic respect and appreciation for her.
However, what came next really threw me. When Hillary stepped away, the next in line was none other than Donald Trump. Now here's a fellow I definitely have strong opinions about. Personally, I find him to be an atrocious human being. And his visionary appearance didn't paint him in a way that made it easy for me to feel anything differently for him. There he was in his poorly-fitting suit, too long of a tie, and that maddeningly smug smirk on his face (I'm sure you know the one), practically falling forward due to his having no sense of center of gravity. If I had felt that Hillary showing up was a shock and surprise, this was many orders of magnitude more so. Trump, as an individual, really challenges my personal sense of universal and unconditional love simply for the fact that he is so objectively awful and distasteful as a narcissist, pathological liar, misogynist, white supremacist, sociopath, and all around jerk. If I wanted to indulge in hate, Trump makes for a very easy target.
Yet, to be true to myself, I found that I had to "embrace" him with just as much unconditional love as an embodiment of God as anyone else, and it would have been thoroughly inauthentic of me to treat him any differently from anyone else. As I've committed myself to being true to reality, the only thing I could realistically do was share a loving embrace with him, just as with Hillary, and just as with all those who came before him. However, I still don't like the man, nor do I think he's qualified to be president, or anything like that. In other words, this didn't change my personal opinion of him in any way, but did challenge my ability to live in unconditional love, albeit only temporarily, as love won out in the end, and he got his turn.
This example clearly involves both universal and personal aspects to it. The universal aspect was recognizing everyone as fundamentally equal as individual embodiments of God, yet it was also personalized in that I was presented with a personally very challenging case, reflecting my own personal likes, dislikes, and concerns for current events. Yet all of it was "me," and was not a case of receiving a "visitation" from the astral projections of Clinton or Trump. This was a reflection of myself and my own challenge of living with universal love and personal feelings, desires, likes, and dislikes.
Personal Visionary Content:
Post-Humans and Artificial Intelligence:
This next visionary event is more reflective of personal interest and projection than the two previous examples. For this session, I had combined MDMA with 4-AcO-DMT and MXE, which, for the record, can be pretty phenomenal as far as visionary content and presentation is concerned, and not necessarily recommended for those who are uncomfortable being completely and thoroughly immersed in visionary reality with no reference to the "outside" world or sense of immediate physicality. Also, in preface to this account, it's significant to mention that in 2016 I released my sixth novel, The Solandarian Game, which is the immediate reference for this experience, though it was not necessarily dictated by the book – it was merely thematically related. In The Solandarian Game, the basic premise is that a singular artificial intelligence, called Maitreya, has fundamentally transformed human society and spread humanity about the galaxy. In the story, humans are fully integrated with this artificial intelligence, which is effectively nurturing and regulating human society for maximum benefit and effectively removing the possibility for conflicts and struggles (that are generated from human attachment to identities and egos) to arise and disrupt society through politics, religion, culture, or other meta and personal forms of identity.
I finished the novel with something of an unexpected turn of events in the epilogue, leaving open the possibility of continuing the story in a subsequent volume, and after completing the book, I have spent a great deal of time pondering over where I might like to take the story in its next iteration. At one point, not long after publicly releasing the novel in the spring of 2016, I had one night of MDMA where I could very clearly see various characters from the book in new scenes and environments, basically exploring possibilities of where I might go with the story, should I choose to continue it. However, the event I want to share here came at least a year after this, and I unexpectedly returned to these themes when experimenting with the MDMA, MXE, 4-AcO-DMT mix in a way that was related to the ideas of the story, but not dependent on it or directly referencing it via specific characters or locales.
This particular event started to unfold after I added MXE into the MDMA and A-AcO-DMT mix that was already in my system. As the MXE came on, I quickly lost all sense of my body and the immediate physical environment and was catapulted deep into visionary space (in terms of my awareness and perspective). As it opened up, I was confronted with seemingly infinitely vast streams of data in the form of rivers of light, sound, and information, all of which was being tended to by autonomous "Godbots," who were managing the incomprehensible amounts of data. The experience was kinesthetic in that I could feel the vast amounts of data, was visual in that I could clearly and distinctly see it, and auditory, in that there were not only lots of sci-fi noises, but countless voices and conversations taking place, as well (though, as is not uncommon in my psychedelic experiences, there was an ironically humorous quality to the auditory aspects in that "conversations" were in cartoon-like voices, and were saying things like, "blah, blah, blah," and "irty-birty-bobbitty-boo," and "wah, wah, wah," and such). Eventually, the data onslaught gave way to an image of interstellar space (the implication seemed to be that this was data that was being shared among members of an interstellar/galactic community, and that the "Godbots" were digital agents of an artificial intelligence that was managing the complex data streams).
Once I got my new bearings and was able to look around the interstellar space, I noticed a large technological object that seemed to be either a space station or a ship. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the technological object was made up of countless identical "nodes," giving the entire thing a distinctly fractal look of repeating patterns. My attention having been drawn to these nodes, one unexpectedly detached from the object and came directly in front of my visionary perspective. It was then that I realized that this was a human form that was completely incased in a "suit" of vast technological sophistication. Simultaneously, the large object now started to move away, revealing that it was a "ship" that was in fact comprised of numerous humans in identical tech suits all linked up together. In this "future," people didn't use spaceships. They could move about the galaxy freely, either as individuals, or linked together in a kind of hive-mind, mediated by the singular artificial intelligence.
The individual that had come before me then revealed his human self, as the "suit" started to articulate and disassemble. Basically, as the suit folded up on itself, it revealed that there was a naked guy in there, and he moved about so that I could get a good look at both him and the "integration" suit that allowed him to not only move about space freely, but also link him with other individuals, as well as the artificial intelligence, and the endless streams of interstellar data through which humanity was communicating with itself. The suit had various "access" nodes on it – one on the forehead, another at the heart, one at the genitals, and also on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Through these, one could link into the complete and vast virtual shared reality in which humans (or "post-humans") were mostly living at this time.
I was immediately struck by how our current interfacing with digital realities pales in comparison to this level of total integration (and thought how my characters in The Solandarian Game might be depicted as too human, and not post-human enough, by comparison). This wasn't just a human, but an inter-linked being, only barely resembling the current human condition.
These reactions then led to a change in visionary scene. Now, I was looking at some kind of living structure, which, while I couldn't see the entire thing, gave the impression of being a space station, rather than on a planetary surface. It was a marvel to behold – vast spaces, large, white "beehive" dome-like structures, clear glass, shinny metal, smooth lines, all very aesthetically pleasing and inviting. In this space, there were various "love" pods strewn all about, and these were places where these post-humans would gather for erotic and sexual exchanges. I could see people flying down in their suits, letting them fall away, and then embracing and interacting with good old fashioned physical, skin-to-skin, organ-to-organ contact – sex, in other words. I was then "shown" how the raising and educating of children involved both human guardians as well as the direct involvement of the artificial intelligence, giving each new person a uniquely designed education and upbringing that would foster each individual's unique skills and personal abilities, while simultaneously integrating each individual with the collective data streams and artificial intelligence as well as cultivating physical and interpersonal interaction with others, or basic human contact. All of it seemed to be a response to my reaction of, "how can we even call these humans?"
In other words, all of this very clearly was a response to my having been thinking about the future of humanity, the role of artificial intelligence, and the question of what remains of "humanity" if a benevolent artificial intelligence really were to take over and guide the development of human society and life in general. These visionary encounters were all very meaningful to me, and related to my novel writing, but were not directly determined by my story, characters, or previously imagined realities or ideas. It's important to stress that this was all very surprising and unexpected for me as the one encountering all this. And, it provided new insights, new perspectives, and challenged some of my earlier ideas and imaginings about the future. Yet, it was still all very obviously related to me and my personal interests and concerns. My reaction: "fascinating!"
Environmental Visionary Content:
Dancing Tree People: For this final example, we'll return to a mere MDMA experience, rather than an exotic mix, as in the example above. This is included to demonstrate how one's immediate environmental stimuli can shape a visionary experience in novel ways.
It was a late night MDMA session, and I was in our living room, lying on the floor next to the fireplace to keep warm, due to it being in late Fall. After several rounds of MDMA, I was pretty much ready for sleep, but still a bit activated, so was lying on the floor with my eyes closed but still very much awake, listening to the sounds about me and just generally feeling myself in the warm, fuzzy glow of MDMA. At some point, I opened my eyes (there wasn't any particular visionary content going on behind closed eyes at this time), and very much to my surprise, found that there were five distinct species of "tree beings" dancing around a fountain in a garden in the middle of my living room. I could tell that they were different species by the variances in color, bark texture, and fractal patterns of their branches – none of which had leaves. In the middle of them was a large and ornate fountain, and on the outside were rather alien, though attractive, looking plants and flowers and other features of garden ornamentation. Each tree being was probably 2-3 feet tall. They were rather flat, so mostly looked two dimensional, yet were spinning around in place as they all danced around in a circle about the central fountain. I casually watched them for a while, then became aware that I needed to urinate, so got up to go to the bathroom. I could still see them clearly, even as I walked around them to get to the bathroom. They were still there when I got back and lied back down, and continued to do their odd little dance as I attempted to go to sleep, occasionally opening my eyes to check and see if they were still there doing their thing or had evaporated. In all, they probably hung around for about an hour or so, perfectly visible, crystal clear, just dancing and spinning, dancing and spinning.
Now, this might sound pretty far out until I fill you in a bit on the environmental factors. For one, there's a fountain in our backyard – nothing as ornamental and fancy as the one the tree people were dancing around, but there, nonetheless, and from where I was in the living room, I could hear the constant gurgle of water as it made its way through the fountain. Second, our neighborhood is filled with various species of trees that lose their leaves in fall, and any of the tree people in my living room would have fit right into the neighborhood in terms of overall appearance and branch structure. Third, it was a very windy night, and I could hear the wind in the branches as well as occasional branches brushing up against the side of the house. When these factors are taken into consideration, what we can see is that this was an imaginative reconstruction of the sounds I was hearing rendered into a scenic/visionary context. It was a personal projection, using the environmental stimuli to shape a visionary experience (one might call to mind the subjects of Rick Strassman's DMT study repeatedly experiencing themselves as being medically probed and examined by aliens, and consider that the study was done in a medical lab with medical equipment and personnel present). The obvious conclusion is that environmental factors can play directly into visionary content, though they don't always do so, and when they do, it is by way of inspiration for diverse visionary content.
It's all you! The only thing that lies on the other side of the veil of psychedelic experiences is you, in both your personal, individual form, and your universal form. Psychedelic visions are you interacting with different aspects of yourself, constructed form both internal and external stimuli, internal and external identification, and personal and universal aspects. It is a journey into the multi-faceted fractal nature of the self.
When you learn how to recognize yourself, your relationship to your psychedelic visionary experience changes dramatically. The fact that it is all you, projected outward into an interactive and highly responsive mirror, becomes obvious. Content can still be surprising, unexpected, and revelatory, but it no longer has any sense of otherness about it, and therefore one's appreciation of visionary content fundamentally changes.
If you pay enough attention, you'll find that there, across the visionary divide of self and other, "you" and "not you," it's really just you, staring right back at you, and when the deceitful play has been discovered, you just might catch yourself winking knowingly with a sly smile, saying, "That's right - it's been you all along. Shall 'we' play?"