Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The Universe in a Pebble of Quartz


I thought that tonight I'd write about something beyond words to see if I can pull it off without sounding like a new age half-wit. This would be the time, in the summer of 1989, that I took mushrooms and glimpsed the Oneness of the Universe.

A scientific study that was published last year confirmed what has been long known: mushrooms can be a shortcut to mystical experience. I have a contemplative Buddhist friend who seriously practices yoga and meditates several times a day. She can feel the life energy coursing through her various chakras and is, in every way imaginable, my spiritual better. And yet, my cheap date with a few grams of shrooms did produce what her disciplined inner-life has not: a genuine kensho moment.

In kensho, one knows at one's core that our separateness is illusory, and in that moment is changed. This glimpse, my friend tells me, is often confused with satori, or more commonly, enlightenment. This makes sense to me, because if you want to meet an unenlightened being, look no further.

So, on this day in 1989, a friend — who shall go unnamed on the grounds that she didn't ask to be dragged into all this gratuitous self-revelation — and I decided to take mushrooms and drive from Somerville, MA to Horseneck Beach. Since I was a teenager, I'd prided myself on my ability to drive and take hallucinogens. I'm sure its a guy thing.

We made it to Horseneck without getting lost. Our sound track was the very appropriate Big Night Music by Shriekback. It was a warm but cloudy day, and the closer we got to the beach the more overcast it became. We got out of the car with our cooler and beach towels and staked out a spot around ten feet from the water.

I have no idea what my dose was. Measurements by the gram have always confused me. If the United States ever goes metric I'm screwed. I was blissed. There is something about taking the filters off to let the world in whole that I found very attractive back then. I'm a sensation slut. Always have been.

Before long, I was staring at my hands, which, like everything else, were amazing and beautiful. I picked up a small rounded white quartz pebble and held it warmly in my palm. It pulsed with life. The outside of the pebble was a thin translucent membrane that gave form to the energy thus contained.

I remarked on this to my companion, who then realized that she should have been the one driving.

This pebble was the most remarkable, amazing thing I had ever seen. I felt great love toward the small smooth white rock.

Then, I began to experience what I can only describe as geometry. It began with the beach before me. As the ocean ebbed and flowed onto the land in its slow licking waves, I watched the water saturate the sand and then slowly pull back from the shore as gravity did its work. The vast ocean defined itself though a series of lines that, while contoured to the gentle rolling waves, had a precision that extended perfectly toward the curved horizon and then upward. Land, ocean, and sky merged into a single matrix that contained myself and the seagulls that wheeled and shrieked above and everything else in this amazing animated place that we call being, and for that fraction of a moment, the unity of all things was as obvious as the sunburned nose on my face.

My friend and I noticed that we were more or less alone on the beach, and that lifeguards were conferring about twenty feet away. That's when the sky opened up and water fell to the earth in huge wet sheets that drenched us and everything else that they touched. We found it funny that everyone seemed so concerned about getting wet at the beach. The lifeguards shooed us away, and we retreated to the car. I pointed the wheels straight to align with the highway and drove. The wipers struggled to keep up with the rain.

Strangely, this, which was unquestionably my peak experience with hallucinogens, was my last trip. Maybe I found what I was looking for. I was twenty-nine. I kept the rock so I wouldn't forget. It is an ordinary, small, round, white quartz.

6 comments:

Dr. Wes Browning said...

You grow up Catholic, you get it beat into you in catechism, in school, in church, at the dinner table, on the playground, and even in your own daydreams that there's only one god and he's all-powerful and everywhere, and then you take mushrooms and all of a sudden All is One! What an incredible leap of the imagination!

Whoopty-fuckin-do! We're all the one fucking godhead of babylon in one mother-fucking whorish mono-totalistic All!

Once a monotheist always a monotheist.

If there's only one god, and you have the revelation that you're it, we're all screwed the moment you do anything about it.

Monotheism is the religion of the oppressors! Down with unity! Up with chaos!

Tim Harris said...

Feeling a little stabby are we?

Stephany said...

Well 2 thoughts here: Paul Simon singing "My mama loves me...like a rock.."

This could explain house painters on my front grass in 1989 looking for something. I went outside and said, "are you looking for something". Yep, lady you've got the best crop of 'shrooms in this neighborhood.

Glad you kept the rock.

Mary said...

Tim, I'm glad you wrote this story down! I feel a faint impulse to crawl around on damp lawns looking for mushrooms--but only a faint one.

As for one person being the spiritual better of another, this thing isn't a contest. And besides, there's this ancient Buddhist story:

A murderer was up to his 499th victim. And very eager he was to knock off his 500th, as you might imagine. Everyone loves a round number! He sees a monk walking along the road ahead of him, and thinks, "Yippee! Easy prey!" He hurries to catch up to the monk. But though he huffs and puffs, and tries and tries, he just can't gain ground on his intended victim. You guessed it: the monk is the Buddha. I forget what the Buddha says to the murderer, exactly, but the words must have been well chosen. Hearing those words, the murderer becomes enlightened in an instant.

So is the murderer our spiritual better? Maybe Dr. Wes can figure that out; I can't.

Tim Harris said...

Yes, I knew it was a terribly unbuddhist thing to say the moment the thought occurred, and then there's that whole deadly sin thing as well, but I've never been one to let my spiritual well-being get in the way of a good joke.

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