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I am very seriously considering an endeavor of questionable benefit… - Dr. Holiday Wednesday
November 15th, 2007
08:22 pm


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I am very seriously considering an endeavor of questionable benefit to me, potentially involving much emotional turmoil, and I need to be quite certain of myself before I proceed. Some individuals, confronted with such a dilemma, consult their horoscope; while others adopt a more direct approach to soul-searching.

I've had LSD before, of course. But it's too inorganic and impersonal for what I had in mind. Under its influence, thoughts come and go quickly, with no wider significance than the immediate, the sensual... this is in my experience, at least. Yours may vary. I sought something more introspective in effect, which would lend itself to a modicum of direction. I opted, instead, for the drug admixture ayahuasca, the 'yage' famously sought by Burroughs and Ginsberg in the 1950s.

In this case it is not a true ayahuasca, involving substitution of Mimosa hostilis and Peganum harmala for Psychotria viridis and Banisteriopsis caapi, respectively; and being further refined of impurities. M. hostilis provides the dimethyltryptamine, while P. harmala contains the monoamine oxidase inhibitor harmine, essential for DMT's efficacy via the gastrointestinal route. But this is, as is said, academic.

You may or may not know the scene cut from Pulp Fiction, in which Mia Wallace opines that all individuals can be placed into one of two categories, 'Beatles people' or 'Elvis people'. Similarly, the set of 'psychonauts' may be subdivided into two camps, those who lean toward the pragmatic, unsentimental approach of William Burroughs, or toward that of the romantic and easily excitable Terence McKenna. I side with Burroughs. You are unsurprised, I'm sure, even if you would not suspect I'd stoop to ingesting psychedelics in order to scrutinize my pneuma. These substances have their (infrequent) uses, to one of which I dispassionately applied the mixture at hand.

I embarked upon this 'treatment' in the familiar environs of my apartment, having left Nicole with some tasks about the lab, and explicit instructions that I not, under any circumstances, be disturbed in the following twelve hours. I made myself comfortable in the living room, drawing the curtains, putting on some quiet music. After pouring myself a soft drink, I swallowed the harmine. Then I puttered around the apartment, letting the MAOI settle in, before ingesting the DMT proper.

More waiting. But not for long.

One moment there was nothing; the next, something switched over and I felt abruptly lightheaded. This progressed to a feeling of displacement or unreality, comparable to that of sleep deprivation, though more profound. I decided I would be more comfortable laying on my back on the floor. There was a period of nausea, almost too brief to merit notice.

I wondered if the ayahuasca was having an undesirable effect on my cardiovascular system, due to an initial tingling and heaviness in my limbs. This was an effect of the harmine. Hypertensive crisis can be a concern if the subject has recently ingested foods high in tyramine, a common fermentation product; but I had not done so, and further self-examination suggested nothing untoward. I could move about without hindrance any time I wished, though my balance was markedly impaired.

Psychically, the first hour was horrible, overwhelming. It soon reached a point where I'd had enough and wanted it to stop. I looked to myself for a way to switch it off, an antidote, but I'd none prepared. Fine. I had come here to do this and I would tough it out. The idea that some individuals take these substances recreationally seemed unreal, when I could muster no volition to do anything but lay there. Taking written notes, had it occurred to me, was impossible. I couldn't stand to hear music or machinery of any kind... an oscillating tone became a voice, or a choir. The sound of children playing outdoors was relatively comforting, although I am not a great fan of the creatures. It took some time to realize the faint rustling and tinkling just behind my head was ice melting in the glass.

Following the somatic effects were the visuals. At first, angular, slowly spiraling patterns in an overlay of pastel colors, the general aspect familiar to me from experiences with LSD. My mind insisted on turning the ceiling's irregular texture smooth and symmetrical, like pressed tin. At times the patterns seemed to form faces, uncomfortably so, as I did not desire the intrusion of anthropomorphism. Fascinating, at first, to watch one's sensory interpretation degrade, this phenomenon became a bit tedious because there was essentially no variation (and I had, of course, seen its like before).

The inclination was to shut my eyes; the patterns within the vista of my closed eyelids were far more intense, nested cruciforms and swastikas strobing in fiery colors, receding into panoramic distance, implying epic significance. I was reminded of Mexican or Aztec murals, although I could not say precisely what aspect of the designs evoked this association. Indistinct creatures of my imagination engaged in stylized intercourse, ritual domination and submission, switching roles at will. There was a diffuse sort of presence around me... in me? In the mental arena where I found myself... so diffuse (or I was so depersonalized) that it hardly registered to me as a presence.

Eventually my inner dialogue reduced to a sort of chauvinistic caricature of aboriginal speech-- baby talk, pidgin English, etc. --and the scientific part of my mind recoiled from this, embarrassed, insistent upon retaining a measure of detachment and control. It goes without saying I am obsessed with control. Self-control, primarily, but also control of others where it serves my purposes.

I can't decide if the trip became more bearable, or if I'd simply gone too far to conceive of resisting it. But after a while the words came in recognizable language again. Self-consciousness abated. Spasmodic flexing of muscles, particularly those of my legs and hips, was compulsive and offered some relief from mental duress. You could say 'the spirit was moving within me.' But I wouldn't. I gave the impression of humping the air, though there was nothing sexual in this activity.

Self-reflection crept in. I realized, though this was not a new insight, that it is my base impulse to retreat, to withdraw, rather than to go forth. I understood that my struggle with this is a theme of my life, constantly pushing down the urge to hide and to hope difficulties will resolve themselves. I know my temperament appears very much the opposite, dear Diary, but that is thanks to years of discipline. It might even be said my life's work is but compensation for feelings of inadequacy... I believe I've said as much, myself. It does serve a purpose to be periodically reminded of so-called 'obvious' truths. There was no particular anguish in realization, just vague regret in my strong suspicion I would not alter this pattern of behavior.

I found myself mentally voicing the mantra "I am Wednesday," perhaps as an effort to rise above the confusion. Part of me wished to remain scientific while in extremis, not become immersed in some sort of ridiculous hippie reverie. Along these lines-- I disagree with the notion that psychedelics offer some manner of transcendent insight or knowledge; rather, under the influence, one's mind saturates itself in every possible juxtaposition of ideas at once, and some prove to have utility in the real world. Most do not. Take that, McKenna.

In the throes of the trip's most profound epoch, I was watching Wednesday, and also knew myself to be Wednesday.

There was a distinction between my... how shall I put it? Between my internal node or focus of sapience, and the extrovert persona of Dr. Holiday Wednesday. This was not a new insight, either. I was not born the personality I project... she was constructed over a period of years, and often quite deliberately, if unconsciously, as a response to a combination of external pressures and internal anxieties and concerns. This is not to say she is ungenuine-- there is not some 'actual' personality I keep buried --but the gulf between her and the presence within is larger than would be supposed by their constant interdependence.

But the Wednesday I observed was more than this; she was also manifestation of the idea of Wednesday, as understood by those in the external world... in some ways very exaggerated, in others all too apt, discomfiting and compelling.

Stylized, slipping in and out of specular mist. A glare of cold, opaquing light on glasses, flashing teeth, the arched brow, shoulders and a pale plateau of lab-coated bust, all angular, judgmental, detached. Clever hands, a cocked cigarette... sometimes a cigarette holder and monocle like a cartoon Nazi. An elegant monster of obdurate, clinical indifference.

My mind placed this encounter during the steak dinner of the other night. I pictured sharp teeth tugging at strings of red, bloody meat from the end of a fork, Bakshi-esque lips pursing and pulling, revealing an eyetooth in a knowing sneer amidst conversation. Casual contempt and condescension toward unseen others, the ignorant hordes. Gloriously unkind.

Settings, situations changed... I watched Wednesday's cyan-haired assistant Nicole dutifully giving head to her in the gloom of her bedroom, as she sat detached, self-reflective on the edge of the bed, every inch the jaded demigod. I witnessed the unspeakable at her hands and I saw her bask in the accolades thereof.

I cannot adequately convey my awe of this apparition. Any knowledge that it was a dreadful caricature, a monster not to be emulated by any moral individual, was beside the point. We all have our deities, in whose footsteps we walk. Whether this artifice takes the form of conventional religion, or a model of our own devising, ultimately what is revered is our inner conception of the deific. I suppose I make this point to defray criticism that I worship myself, a pure narcissist. We all worship ourselves... the godhead is always found within. And the object is not necessarily to become, but to be guided, to be assured that there is purpose and direction.

I do not recall how long was time spent in the company of my persona. Hours, certainly.

Emergence from the drug's influence was far more kind than that of LSD, aided by napping for part of the descent. When I came to, the psychoactive effects had all but abated; I felt a tiny pang of disappointment.

I decided, in a disconnected fashion, that I was quite hungry, and prepared a simple meal of chicken breast and steamed vegetables. Dining, I was not Wednesday rending morsels beguilingly with her teeth; I mechanically disassembled and consumed the meat by the most efficient means. While famished enough to finish the meal, I thought the remaining arrangement of broccoli florets and geometrically incised flesh made a meaningful sigil, and left it on the plate to be seen.

Nicole slipped into the apartment well after the time limit I'd dictated. She found me very quiet and somewhat distant. I think my demeanor unsettled her, and I know she longed to ask what transpired and if I was well. I felt very clingy, though, and it seemed the affection distracted her from concern. She was also quite weary from the work I'd assigned. I wished to join her in bed, but could not sleep. Now normality, within and without, was a novelty. I wanted to stay and experience it, and did so for another two hours.

Sleep, when welcomed, brought a return of the hallucinatory patterns. I suspected a residue of the drug remained, but this was simply dream recollection, for the patterns disappeared upon waking.

In the wake of this experience, my mind was left very clear, uncluttered by immediate concerns and worries. That is the utility of this substance to me: it clears out the deadwood. Perception and mental association are heightened by the simple expedient of abolishing the mind's habitual preoccupations for a time. The true psychological benefit of psychedelics is not the trip, but its aftermath. The trip itself is ordeal or transient reverie.

Another temporary effect was to dilate my sense of time, so that an hour becomes the considerable interval it was when one was a child. I moved about, doing chores which needed doing, reflecting upon what I'd experienced, and contemplating the future. An eternity later, Nicole roused from bed, mussed and adorable, and I made us breakfast. While we ate, I put on a movie (the aforementioned Pulp Fiction) to 'downshift' as it were from this heavy thinking, and found myself picking out numerous background details and continuity errors I'd not previously noted.

(10 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
Far out, Doctor.
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
I hope you are not mocking me, Mx. Magenta.
[User Picture]
Date:April 12th, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
Inner reflection and the musing of it after regular thought returns always leaves one with an need to scratch deeper. The want to fully understand.

Seems you arrived someplace on your trip. Wonder where you will go...
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2008 12:12 pm (UTC)
I expect to go somewhere relatively mundane.
[User Picture]
Date:April 18th, 2008 02:52 am (UTC)
Mundane? Like say to the store? *snickers* Or perhaps to a better understanding? A repent? A revelation?

I'm curious Wednesday, just what has made you want to assure yourself that you are you, as you put it here. You have never come off to me of one of self doubt , more too sure of yourself. This "endeavor of questionable benefit". Anything that would cause you, one I have seen stony faced and hard, up until recently, into emotional turmoil has some interest in me. Mostly for my records but retrospective as well.

You have been surprising me of late, and I need to keep my data proper.
[User Picture]
Date:April 13th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
I honestly never took you for a psychedelic ingestor, Doctor. Granted, the multiple recombinations of perceptions and ideas are doubtless useful in your work. But with all the stress and frustration in your life, I would think that marijuana would be more your speed. Soothing, lulling, and it makes you want food. A little snack, some peaceful, easy feelings, maybe some John Denver or Frank Zappa. That would be excellent after the lack of intelligence by school administrators.
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2008 12:24 pm (UTC)
My primary intent was not to relieve stress, and I assure you that marijuana is not more my speed. Greta may 'toke up' at the slightest provocation, but I need to stay sharp at all times.
[User Picture]
Date:April 13th, 2008 02:54 pm (UTC)
Fascinating, doctor. As someone who's regularly engaged in complex molecular synthesis, it never fails to amaze me that the most seeming mundane, the most starkly simplistic of compounds have such profound effects upon the mind and body. I suppose PiHKaL and TiHKaL are well-recorded testaments to this fact.

I am similarly impressed by the pragmatism with which you approached the event. I am fully aware that such an endeavor is well beyond my own depth, but I found reading your account was educational to say the least. You had a real goal which you set out to accomplish and explore, unlike many who simply wish to ignore their surroundings. Though, I could hardly criticize either pursuit.
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2008 12:10 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Much of neurochemistry, even in its fundamentals, remains an enigma... the field nearly parallels those of the social sciences (perhaps meaningfully so), in that certain generalities are weakly understood, and certain correlations can be demonstrated, but the underlying mechanisms presently elude understanding. But psychedelic/hallucinogenic substances seem particularly remarkable because they tamper in such profound fashion with how we perceive reality, and that touches upon philosophy and religion, and questions which have been with us perhaps since the achievement of sapience itself.

I appreciate that the mental state often achieved under influence of this substance can be very moving, emotionally-- perhaps even life-changing --and that it is subsequently difficult to distance one's self in its research. I credit my relative detachment to the moderate dose to which I subjected myself. The level of active substance ingested during the authentic ayahuasca ceremony is enough to propel anyone far into the outer reaches... even me. (smile) As entertaining as that might prove, it would not be diagnostically useful to me.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
Unrelated to anything dear doctor but I was wondering if you've yet had a chance to review peak's new plasma scalpel? The promotional video for it looked quite excellent (http://peak.odacms.com/video/plasmablade.cfm) but there is no mention of the service cycle or duration of charge and it looks as though the handle might be a bit bulky and I worry that it might be somewhat unwieldy for practical use.

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